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Governor Wolf Recognizes Two DEP Employees for Efforts to Restore Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Combat Climate Change 

Governor Tom Wolf has awarded the Governor’s Award of Excellence to two employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP): Jill Whitcomb, director of the Chesapeake Bay Office, and Heidi Kunka, Energy Program specialist, for their successful efforts to improve the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and implement local climate action plans.

“These awards are recognition of the tremendous work that both Jill and Heidi have made not just to DEP but to Pennsylvania,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “Both of them have shown the importance of collaboration with local governments to achieve results that are going to make Pennsylvania a better place.”

“Both Jill and Heidi are tackling some of the biggest issues to face the Department of Environmental Protection, and are bringing new ideas to address them,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “I am proud to call them my colleagues and am very pleased that their work is being recognized.”

Jill Whitcomb has been instrumental to implementing the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, Phase III, to improve water quality in Pennsylvania streams and rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. This effort has involved forging a collaborative effort among state agencies, county conservation districts, municipal governments, farmers, and many others to cut down on water pollution. These community-based efforts are showing results, with widespread cooperation to identify ways to cut down pollution through best management practices.

Heidi Kunka’s work on local climate action plans is bringing new ideas to municipal governments. These ideas are helping municipal governments identify and make plans to address their climate impacts. In 2020, the first year of the program, Heidi worked with college students and 20 local governments to inventory greenhouse gas emissions, identify climate vulnerabilities, and develop their own local climate action plans. The effort was so successful that the program will have 21 more local governments, many of which include environmental justice communities.

The annual Governor’s Awards for Excellence recognize exemplary commonwealth employees or groups of employees for initiative, leadership, innovation, and increased efficiency. This prestigious award program encourages excellence, provides inspiring role models for emulation, and rewards remarkable accomplishments.