In 1973, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed Act 148, authorizing any municipality or group of municipalities to establish, by ordinance, an EAC. In 1996, Act 177 was passed, which amended Act 148. This State enabling statute, Act 148 of 1973, as amended in 1996 by Act 177, is included in Appendix I. For the remainder of this handbook, Act 148 as amended, will be simply referred to as “Act 148.”
Act 148 empowers EACs to:
- Identify environmental issues and recommend plans and programs to the appropriate municipal agencies for the promotion and conservation of natural resources and for the protection and improvement of the quality of the environment within its territorial limits.
- Make recommendations for the use of open land areas.
- Promote a community environmental program.
- Keep an index of all open space, publicly or privately owned, including floodprone areas, swamps and other unique natural areas, for the purpose of obtaining information on the proper use of those areas.
- Advise the appropriate local government agencies, including the planning commission and recreation and park board and the elected governing body, on the acquisition of property, both real and personal.
The enabling legislation requires each council to keep records of meetings and activities and to issue an annual report, which should be distributed with the municipality’s annual report or made available to the public in
Membership & Terms
Act 148 stipulates that an EAC may be composed of 3 to 7 members, who serve without compensation and are appointed to staggered three-year terms. EACs with three members can function effectively, however, a full complement of seven members enables access to a wider range of expertise and the ability to undertake more projects.
Members are appointed by the local governing body. In the case of multi-municipal EACs, each participating municipality appoints an equal number of members to serve on the council. Act 148 states that “whenever possible, one member shall also be a member of the municipal planning board.” This cross-representation is an important factor in the effectiveness of an EAC.
The governing body selects the chair of a council, except in the case of a multi-municipal EAC, where the council itself selects the chair. The enabling legislation does not mention the election of other officers, but the general practice in Pennsylvania is to provide for the election of other officers, such as vice chair or recording secretary, at the January meeting.
Act 148 enables local governments to appropriate funds for the operation of EACs to cover administrative, clerical, printing and legal service costs. The amount of the appropriation is to be determined by the local governing body. All or part of any funds appropriated in a year may be expended, placed in a conservation fund or allowed to accumulate from year to year.
Act 148 does not mandate that EACs have designated funding; therefore, EACs in Pennsylvania operate on whatever funds are designated for them by the governing body, in addition to any grants, project funds, and fundraising is done. A governing body may want to consider a minimum budget ($500 to $1000) to cover the basic operating expenses that will enable a council to function effectively. It is advisable for an EAC to prepare an annual budget report to submit to the local governing body. Expense and income reports may be included as well. To keep the EAC informed regarding the budget, the treasurer should report on the status of funds at each meeting.