Population: 12,001,451
Counties: 67
Governor Tom Ridge

Key Laws/Administrative Actions

Click here for the amount of protected land in Pennsylvania, and click here to review Pennsylvania's federal transportation spending.
Source:  Pew Center on the States & Changing Direction:  Federal Transportation Spending in the 1990s. Surface Transportation Policy Project

Recent Reports: 
No One’s Home. Pennsylvania Low Income Housing Coalition's (PALIHC)
(January 2001.)

Current Statewide Campaigns:
The Keystone Campaign for Affordable Housing
The Campaign has as its goal inclusion of $70 million for various affordable housing activities in the 2002 state budget.  The campaign began two years ago with the release of PALIHC's annual No One's Home report, which detailed that Pennsylvania was not only losing ground on funding for housing (spending had decreased significantly over the past decade), but that it was well behind neighboring states in the amount spent on housing.  To learn more about the campaign, click here

Contact information:
2 South Easton Road 
Glenside, PA 19038

Pennsylvania is another state which demonstrated serious promise of reform in the early 1990s.1 Although numerous legislative study commissions were constituted to study the issue and to conduct hearings, resulting in recommendations and in legislation, no bills have been enacted to date.  In 1997, Governor Ridge formed the 21st Century Environmental Commission, a panel of forty cabinet members, legislators, business leaders, environmentalists and planners.2  The panel, after identifying sprawl development as its biggest environment-related concern, issued 240 recommendations in September 1998, including among other things, a comprehensive revision of the planning and zoning enabling statutes.3  The Commission also recommended urban growth boundaries as one tool to discourage suburban sprawl.  On January 7, 1999, Governor Ridge issued an Executive Order4 setting forth the policy of the Commonwealth to guide all Commonwealth agencies when making decisions that impact the use of land.  To accomplish his goals, the Governor designated the Center for Local Government Services as the lead state agency responsible for land use assistance and monitoring,5 directed that the Governor's Green Government Council work to ensure that state agencies are acting consistently with the goals of the executive order in the administration of their operations (including acquisitions and other practices), and that the Department of Environmental Protection establish a statewide geospatial data clearinghouse.6

The above material is excerpted with permission from "Smart Growth at Century's End: The State of the States" by Patricia E. Salkin, published in The Urban Lawyer, Sumr 1999 v 31 n 3, p. 601.  For a complete copy of the article, please contact The Urban Lawyer.

To read any of the proposed or existing laws in their entirety, click here.
Key Laws:
Proposed Legislation:
HB 90 – (Untitled) Historic Preservation Tax Credits (2001)
Similar to the federal Historic Homeownership Assistance Act introduced in the U.S. House last year, the Pennsylvania House recently passed HB 90 which would give a 20 percent state income-tax credit to someone who buys and restores a historically significant property and agrees to live in it for at least five years. Owners also would be exempt from the 6 percent state sales tax on materials and services used to restore their homes.

For an overview of Pennsylvania's planning and zoning statutes, see a summary provided by the American Planning Association.

Existing Legislation:
HB 14 & SB 300  Growing Smarter  (2000)
House Bill 14 and SB 300 will encourage cities to create general plans that will allow for the the reservation of certain land for future public purpose and by the acquisition of such land; to promote the conservation of energy through the use of planning practices and to promote the effective utilization of renewable energy sources.  It will also provide for the establishment of planning commissions, planning departments, planning committees and zoning hearing boards, authorizing them to charge fees, make inspections and hold public hearings.  Additionally, it will provide the legal mechanisms for cities to provide a "Transfer of Development Rights" scheme. 

HB 868  Growing Greener  (1999)
Growing Greener is the largest investment in Pennsylvania’s environment in modern history. Signed into law by Gov. Tom Ridge in December 1999, the nearly $650 million spending plan invests new money and redirects existing funds to address the environmental challenges of the 21st century: loss of open space and farmland, tainted waterways, abandoned mines, aging sewer systems, and repair backlogs at state parks and forests.

Funds provided by Growing Greener will be split among four state agencies on an annual basis: Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Agriculture, and Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, the agency that helps communities upgrade their water and sewer systems.
$125 million to eliminate the infrastructure maintenance backlog in state parks and forests. Money will be used to make major repairs and upgrades to roads, bridges, sewer and water systems, campsites and cabins, buildings, dams, marinas, trails and other needed improvements as necessary. 

About $27.4 million for matching grants to acquire land to protect open space and critical natural habitat; to conserve river resources; to create greenways; to build community parks and playgrounds; and to promote and enhance heritage tourism through the Pennsylvania Heritage Parks Program. The Growing Greener funds will augment DCNR’s existing
Community Conservation Partnership grant programs. The Growing Greener Grants include: 
Community Grant Program 
Rivers Conservation Program 
Land Trust Grant Program
Rail-to-trails Grant Program
Pennsylvania Heritage Parks Program.
Growing Greener funds also may be used to supplement research and protection efforts for the state's native nongame wildlife and wild plants through the Wild Resource Conservation Fund.  Funding requests will continue to come through the Wild Resource Conservation program.

HB 2057  Industrial Sites Environmental Assessment Act  (2000)
Gov. Ridge signed House Bill 2057 on March 17 to provide performance-based loans to businesses and communities for remediation and cleanup of non-hazardous wastes, including waste tires, at abandoned industrial sites. The new law, sponsored by Rep. Jere L. Strittmatter (R-Lancaster), amended the Industrial Sites Environmental Assessment Act authorizing the Department of Community and Economic Development to make performance-based loans for the remediation of brownfield sites and cleanup of non-hazardous waste through the Industrial Sites Cleanup Fund.

Administrative Actions:
Governor's Green Government Council
The mission of the Governor's Green Government Council is to assist Commonwealth agencies to implement strategic environmental management practices which support sustainable development and move towards the Commonwealth goal of zero emissions.  The Council is similar to a clearinghouse on the various environmental initiatives taken by the Governor's office (such as Green Building and Energy Programs).

"MetroRail Project could be running out of steam." Philadelphia Inquirer. January 5, 2001.

"Land-use law called into play in case of proposed synagogue," Philadelphia Inquirer. March 22, 2001.

"Inside the city, more are against sprawl," Philadelphia Inquirer. April 30, 2001. 

"A solution to sprawl is stymied (Three Part Series)," Philadelphia Inquirer. May 6, 2001.

Pennsylvania Environmental Council
117 S. 17th Street, Suite 2300
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Tel: 215-563-0250

10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania
117 South 17th Street, Suite 2300
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Tel: 215-568-2225

American Farmland Trust
Mid-Atlantic Field Program
1200 18th Street, NW
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-331-7300


1Patricia Salkin, "Statewide Comprehensive Planning: The Next Wave," in Statewide Comprehensive Planning, (American Bar Association 1993).
2 Pa. Executive Order 1997-4.
3 See, Smart Growth Network, Smart Growth Network Progress Report: Moving Smart Growth from Theory to Policy & Practice (ICMA/EPA/ULI 1998) at 12.
4 Executive Order 1999-1(Governor's Land Use Announcement 1-7-99, press release and Executive Order).
5 The following eight policies are enumerated:
1. Soundly planned growth is in the best long term interests of the Commonwealth and should be encouraged at all levels of government.
2. Farmland and open space are valued Commonwealth natural resources and resaonable measures for their preservation should be promoted.
3. Development should be encouraged and supported in areas that have been previously developed or in locally designated growth areas.
4. Because land use decisions made at the local level have an impact that expands beyond municipal boundaries, regional cooperation among local governments should be encouraged.
5. The consitutional private property rights of PA must be preserved.
6. The Commonwealth shall work to improve the  understanding of the impact of land use decisions on the environmental, economic and social health of communities.
7. Sustaining the eocnomic and social vitality of PA's communities must be a priority of state government.
8. Infrastructure maintenance and improvement plans should be consistent with sound land use practices.
See, Executive Order 1999-1.
6 Specifically, the Executive Order charges the Center with developing an inventory of sound land use practices and making it readily available: providing technical assistance and education to localities in implementing the objectives of the executive order; encouraging intermunicipal cooperation in planning and zoning; working with other state agencies to develop strategies to advance the agenda; working to help incorporate the statewide greenway plan into local and regional planning straegies; creating an advisory committee; and reporting to the Governor including the submission of recommendations in further support of the goals.