Cordelia Scaife May

Cordelia Scaife May’s Colcom Foundation and PEC’s Collaborative Efforts to Safeguard the Keystone State’s Environment

Cordelia Scaife May, the late Mellon heiress, was a woman ahead of her time who recognized the delicate balance between human activity and the natural world long before sustainability became a mainstream concern. Her lifelong passion for preserving ecological balance and ensuring a high quality of life for future generations led her to establish Colcom Foundation in 1996.

May’s vision for the Foundation was rooted in her deep respect for nature’s beauty and her understanding of how human activity was compromising that balance.

With foresight and compassion, May dedicated her philanthropic efforts to fostering a sustainable environment that could ensure a high quality of life for all Americans. ColcomFoundation, to which she left the majority of her wealth at her death in 2005, honors her humanitarian objectives and carries forward her legacy.

The philanthropic Foundation’s mission is to support organizations like the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC). In 2022, Colcom Foundation provided PEC with $300,000 in operational support, bolstering the council’s efforts to protect and restore Pennsylvania’s natural and built environments.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) is an organization working to bridge the divide between Pennsylvania’s residents’ economic prosperity and environmental concerns.

From its humble beginnings in 1969 as a coordinating body for environmental issues, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council has evolved into a powerful force advocating for collaborative, science-based solutions to the Commonwealth’s environmental challenges.

With roots dating back over 50 years, PEC’s journey reflects Pennsylvania’s own progression in addressing ecological concerns. Originally formed as two separate entities to comply with federal tax laws, the organization merged its research and lobbying arms in the mid-1980s, creating a unified front to tackle pressing environmental matters.

Today, PEC stands at the forefront of Pennsylvania’s transition to a zero-carbon economy. As the nation’s largest exporter of electricity, the state’s role in decarbonizing power generation is pivotal. PEC has been instrumental in this effort, supporting legislation like the 2008 Climate Change Act and promoting Pennsylvania’s anticipated entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Operating with the vision of establishing Pennsylvania as a model for collaborative environmental solutions, PEC’s approach is rooted in the belief that the environment, economy, and overall quality of life are intrinsically interconnected.

A Comprehensive Approach to Sustainability

PEC is committed to building partnerships across sectors, from private companies and government entities to communities and citizens. This collaborative model ensures that solutions consider the perspectives and concerns of all stakeholders involved.

One key strategy is developing and promoting market-based and science-driven policies, programs, and projects that offer unique yet replicable solutions to environmental challenges. PEC is always seeking innovative approaches that are effective and sustainable.

Education is also crucial to PEC’s mission. By providing unbiased and accessible information, the organization aims to empower stakeholders to make informed choices and engage in meaningful environmental action. Environmental literacy is viewed as essential for driving positive change.

While focused on solutions, advocacy remains an important component of PEC’s work. As an advocate for legislative, regulatory, and policy reforms, the organization pushes for measures aligning with Pennsylvania’s environmental and economic interests, grounding efforts in research and long-term sustainability principles.

PEC’s comprehensive approach encompasses a range of key programs, including deep decarbonization, carbon offsets, air and energy policy analysis, and environmental restoration initiatives. One notable project, the Legacy Mineland Reforestation program, aims to repair the damage left by industrial activity by planting native trees on abandoned mine sites. Since its inception in 2016, the program has planted over 277,000 seedlings across more than 350 acres, contributing to air and water quality, landscape stabilization, and wildlife habitat preservation.

Water resource management is another critical focus area for PEC. The organization collaborates with various stakeholders to promote nature-based stormwater management, water quality projects, and recreational access to waterways. By educating and empowering citizens and municipal leaders, PEC fosters a culture of stewardship and active participation in protecting Pennsylvania’s vital water resources.

A Partnership for a Sustainable Future

The operational support from Colcom Foundation to PEC exemplifies the continuing commitment of Cordelia Scaife May’s Foundation in tackling the immense environmental challenges we face today.

Through its comprehensive approach encompassing policy advocacy, cross-sector collaboration, education, and on-the-ground initiatives, PEC embodies Cordelia Scaife May’s passion for holding back the damages of unchecked human activity.

This partnership, rooted in a shared commitment to sustainability, carries forward May’s dream of a thriving environment and sustainable future for generations of Pennsylvanians and, indeed, all Americans.

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