Burda, who has worked for the DEP California District Mining Office for 21 years, received the 2017 ECHO Award for leading industry coal refuse reclamation in Pennsylvania to the point where the majority of coal refuse sites in the state are now permitted as zero-discharge facilities. Refuse piles have the potential to produce some of the worst acid mine drainage of any type of coal facility.
The ECHO Award honors dedication to public service and protection of society; sustained, strategic engagement in difficult challenges; nonpartisanship; and major contributions to and improved implementation of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.
“Throughout his career, Craig Burda has continually ensured higher environmental protection standards for communities,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “In each and every permitting decision, he’s deployed outstanding technical expertise, great integrity and fortitude, and deep skill in partnering with industry to protect the health and environment of our coal communities. He has raised the bar on coal refuse reclamation in Pennsylvania.”
Burda saw the ongoing threat of acid mine drainage (AMD) coming from permitted coal waste facilities. His analysis of groundwater data to show how past reclamation techniques were inadequate to prevent AMD and his understanding of the law and engineering needed to eliminate AMD led to a change in how Pennsylvania permits coal refuse sites. Today, after reclamation is completed, these sites discharge no AMD into ground or surface water.
Burda was presented the award by OSMRE director Joe Pizarchik. “I take great pleasure in recognizing someone who has fully embraced what the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act clearly targets,” said Pizarchik. “Craig’s efforts show that even someone working out of the public eye can have a terrific impact on protecting people and the environment.”
“As an integral member of the Department of Environmental Protection, your knowledge and expertise has been a solid voice for change throughout the community,” Governor Tom Wolf said in a congratulatory greeting. “I commend your commitment to public policy advocacy and your unparalleled proficiency in issue management and standard setting.”
The ECHO award was presented to Burda at a gathering of his colleagues at DEP headquarters in the Rachel Carson State Office Building in Harrisburg.