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Office of Chief Counsel

The Department of Environmental Protection (formerly known as the Department of Environmental Resources) was created by Act 275 of 1970, which gave it the responsibility for the development of a balanced ecological system, incorporating social, cultural and economic needs of the commonwealth through development and protection of our environmental and natural resources. DEP is responsible for the state’s land and water management programs, all aspects of environmental protection, the regulation of mining operations, and the development of energy technology. The Office of Chief Counsel is responsible for enforcing all laws within the jurisdiction of DEP.

DEP’s Office of Chief Counsel is divided into five (5) organizational units:

  • Bureau of Regulatory Counsel – responsible for providing legal counseling and assistance to DEP’s central office in all environmental program areas.
  • Regional Offices – the six regional counsel offices serve DEP’s regional offices in carrying out the department’s environmental protection operations. The regional legal offices provide counseling and represent the regional programs in permitting, enforcement and litigation matters.
  • General Law Division – This unit provides legal counsel and representation in matters relating to DEP administration, including contracts, grants and employment. The unit also provides critical coordination and support services to the other units within the DEP Office of Chief Counsel.
  • Bureau of Investigation – BOI investigators, working in concert with DEP attorneys and technical staff, conduct investigations relating to violations of environmental statutes, laws and regulations.

Pennsylvania Constitution

Article 1, Section 27
Natural Resources and Public Estate

On May 18, 1971, Pennsylvania voters ratified Article I, Section 27 – the environmental amendment to the state Constitution.

Article 1, Section 27 has had a significant impact on Pennsylvania's government and environment, signaling a change in the government’s attitude toward the environmental values and natural resources. It has provided the courts and administrative agencies with a solid legal basis for protecting the environment. The text of the amendment is as follows:

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustees of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all people.

OCC Documents