By Acting on Climate, We Help Make Every Day Earth Day

By Patrick McDonnell, DEP Secretary

DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which is a challenging milestone to celebrate in the middle of a pandemic that is keeping many of us socially distant and preventing large gatherings like cleanup events. But while the classroom sit-ins that were the hallmark of Gaylord Nelson’s movement might not be possible right now, there is still ample reason to celebrate the successes we have realized as a nation, as well as look to the challenges we are still facing. 
The theme of this milestone Earth Day is climate change – a problem that is bigger than any one person, state, or even nation can grapple with alone. There are many parallels between climate change and the current COVID-19 pandemic – namely the need for efforts to fight it must be done both on a large scale and by individuals at the same time.  
Also in Pennsylvania, we have recognized climate change as one of the biggest issues facing the commonwealth, and we are working to address it on multiple fronts. Fighting climate change is bigger than one agency though, and there are things that can and should be done by policymakers in the legislature and by leaders in the business community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the power of working together as a society to tackle a worldwide threat at all levels – global, national, state, and individual. We can put the same effort into reshaping our environment and economy for the future and fight climate change. This is possibly the best way that we can make every day Earth Day, even if we can’t all celebrate together this year. 


DEP Staff Reflect on Earth Day

Earth Day highlights an opportunity to be grateful for all the flourishing parts of life. Whether walking through a park, within a forest, or across a development, all surroundings come from the grace of Earth. Each year, we reflect on the call to respect the resources that our planet offers; and each day, the environment remains an essential part of our lives. Working for DEP allows one to continually protect the world we know and love. — Serena Groff, Radiation Protection Specialist

Peregrine Falcons Soar in PA as Earth Day Celebrates 50 Years

Pennsylvania has witnessed the remarkable recovery of three species of raptors in recent decades: the bald eagle, osprey, and peregrine falcon. This was almost unthinkable a half-century ago, when the man-made crisis of DDT threatened bird populations by thinning egg shells, sabotaging seasonal nesting efforts. As we all celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, DEP is proud to be part of the success story of peregrine falcon recovery, which has unique connections to one of Earth Day’s catalysts, Pennsylvania’s own Rachel Carson. Read more on our blog and watch Harrisburg's peregrine falcons live at

When April Showers Bring More Than May Flowers

April showers may bring more than May flowers. In recent years Pennsylvania has experienced frequent and heavy rain storms. Stormwater runoff impacts groundwater recharge and contributes to flooding, which is often the most immediate concern.  
Did you know stormwater runoff occurs even during moderate rains, carrying water pollutants such as soil, pet wastes, auto fluids, and excess yard and garden fertilizers into lakes, streams, and rivers? Eventually these pollutants can enter larger bodies of water, including the Chesapeake and Delaware bays, creating problems for downstream neighbors.
Are there steps that you can do to help? Absolutely. April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a time for all of us to make a commitment or take an action to help reduce climate change impacts. Read more and find tips on our blog here.

Your Idea. DEP Funding. A Better Environment for All.

If you have an idea for an environmental improvement project and need funding to make it happen, DEP can help. We offer 31 grant and rebate programs to support projects aimed at improving or protecting the water, land, and air in Pennsylvania.
Our revamped grants web page makes it much easier to find them. Visit for a list of all grant programs and information on application enrollment periods, eligibility, how to apply, and other details.
DEP’s funding programs support dozens of projects by schools, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. In addition, six programs support small and large businesses. For residents, the popular Alternative Fuel Vehicle Rebate supports the purchase of clean-energy cars and trucks. Also, some programs give extra consideration to applicants in environmental justice areas.
Whether your scope is your local community or statewide – DEP has resources that may be able to help with funding. Your focus can be as broad as climate change or as specific as LED lighting installation. Over the decades, DEP has supported many thousands of environmental projects, continually helping to make Pennsylvania a better place to live.

Recycling During COVID-19

By now, in the year 2020, recycling should be a regular practice in many households in Pennsylvania. Whether it be glass, plastic, cans, paper or cardboard, those items should be going directly into the recycling bins - clean of course! The Municipal Waste Planning Recycling and Waste Reduction Act (ACT 1010) was passed 32 years ago to regulate recycling and waste. But for the foreseeable future, the department is now allowing some households and businesses to “temporarily” change the way they recycle….and we can thank COVID-19.
Since the outbreak of the virus, many municipalities and private haulers have become more concerned about their workers contracting coronavirus and spreading it. The virus can live on cardboard and paper for a few hours, and on glass and plastic for a few days. Because of that possibility, many haulers have declined- for now- to pick up certain curbside recyclables such as: glass, plastics and cans during the virus outbreak.
DEP is stressing to municipalities that they must communicate any changes to their recycling schedules to residents as soon as possible- via social media, regular media (newspaper, television, radio) or OTHER community postings. If a municipality needs to discontinue the recycling program due to COVID 19 safety issues, the department has a procedure to apply for forbearance of the regulations. Those procedures are available from DEP Waste Management staff in all six regions.
For residents, however, the changes also offer a different way of storing recyclables. So, if recycling collection has been eliminated or modified in your community due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the department is offering these suggestions:
  • The DEP is recommending that residents/businesses store clean recyclables until further notice.
  • Storing clean, recyclable materials (glass, plastics, cans) is preferred over sending them to landfills.
  • If storing is not possible, residents may put their recyclable materials such as glass, plastics and cans into regular household trash.
  • Residents are encouraged to visit their municipal websites for updates and guidance, as some municipalities are limiting recyclable materials collection to cardboard, paper, & newspaper.
DEP will continue to evaluate the recycling situation across the state as the Governor’s COVID19 response is implemented and is in constant contact with County Recycling Coordinators.
If residents have questions, they are asked to please contact their Municipality about curbside trash and recycling pick-up.
Change is unavoidable during the COVID-19 crisis, but the goal is to stay healthy, stay safe....and please continue to recycle!

2020 Census

Although National Census Day was April 1, all Pennsylvanians are encouraged to complete their U.S. Census information by July 31 in order to be counted properly. This year is the first year that census information has been able to be filled out online – but Pennsylvanians can still respond online, by phone, or by mail.
The Census is simple and confidential, with questions that include your name, address, sex, race, ethnicity, age, and whether you own or rent your home. The Census Bureau will never ask about your citizenship status, or for sensitive information, such as your social security number, bank accounts, or payments/donations. In addition, the Census Bureau will never reach out to you on behalf of a political party. Responses to the Census are protected by law and cannot be shared with, or used by, any other government agencies. Answers cannot be used for law enforcement purposes or to determine eligibility for government benefits or immigration enforcement.
The U.S. Constitution requires a Census count once every 10 years and counts every person living in the United States once. Results of the 2020 Census will help provide fair representation when determining congressional districts, policy, decision-making, and distribution of billions of dollars in federal funding that impacts the daily lives of Pennsylvanians over the next 10 years.
To learn more about the 2020 Census, or to complete it, please visit the website.

The 2020 Primary Election

With the June 2 Primary approaching, it is important that all Pennsylvanians are aware of important changes due to COVID-19. The first, being that in order to protect the health and safety of all voters, poll workers and election officials, the primary date was rescheduled to June 2.
Now, mail in ballot options are also available to ALL Pennsylvanians. Under Act 77 of 2019, Pennsylvania voters have several ways to vote if they choose not to go to the polls or are unable to get to the polls on election day. You can choose to become a permanent mail-in or absentee voter through these steps:
  • Mail-in ballots are for voters who simply wish to vote by mail before election day, instead of going to their polling place on election day – no reason needs to be given. They can apply online for a mail-in ballot, or download and print the application and mail it to their county election office. Voters can also apply for and vote their ballot in person at their county election office weeks ahead of the primary or election, during county-established hours.
  • Absentee ballots are for voters who will be away from their home municipality on election day or who have a disability or illness that prevents them from going to the polls. Absentee voters must give a reason.
Mail in ballot applications and absentee ballot applications must be received in your county election office by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26. Both mail-in and absentee voters will receive a ballot in the mail to complete and must return it to their county election office by 8 p.m. on election day – June 2. If mailing it in, please do so early as to ensure timely delivery.
Another reminder is that May 18 is the new deadline to update your voter registration information. Please visit to update your registration today.
We all now have the option to vote by mail or absentee ballot, another way to ensure our safety during the current health crisis. For help, or to be mailed an application, please call 1-877-VOTESPA.


Penn signs Power Purchase Agreement for largest solar project in Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania has signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the creation of a solar power project moving the University significantly closer to meeting its commitment of a 100% carbon neutral campus by 2042, as outlined in the Climate & Sustainability Action Plan 3.0. Learn more on their website here.


Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 400 Market Street Harrisburg, PA 17101 
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