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About Us

Judges of The Environmental Hearing Board

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Steven C. Beckman

Chief Judge and Chairperson

Appointed to the Environmental Hearing Board by Governor Corbett in 2012. He was named Chief Judge and Chairperson by Governor Shapiro in February 2023. Judge Beckman received his undergraduate degree from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio in 1983. He next attended the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and earned a Masters Degree in Geology. Judge Beckman received his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1993 and went to work at MacDonald Illig Jones and Britton LLP in Erie, Pa. In 1996, he was appointed by Governor Ridge to serve as the Regional Director for the Northwest Region office of the Department of Environmental Protection. In 2001, Judge Beckman left the DEP and returned to MacDonald Illig law firm where he was a partner and a member of the law firm's Environmental Law practice group at the time of his appointment to the Board.

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Bernard A. Labuskes, Jr.

Judge

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received his B.A. from Pennsylvania State University in 1979 and his J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1982. He was Senior Comments Editor of the University of Pittsburgh Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif. He was a law clerk to Honorable Charles Clark, Chief Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, from 1982 to 1983. He served as Assistant Counsel at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources from 1985 through 1987, where he focused on litigation and enforcement matters. Prior to his appointment to the Board, he was a partner and chair of the Environmental Practice Group of McNees, Wallace & Nurick in Harrisburg. He was appointed to the Environmental Hearing Board by Governor Ridge in November 1998 and became a member of the Board in January 1999. He lives with his wife and two children in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

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Maryanne Wesdock

Judge

Appointed to the Environmental Hearing Board by Governor Josh Shapiro in December 2023 and is based in Pittsburgh. Prior to her appointment, Judge Wesdock served as Senior Counsel to the Board and former Chief Judge and Chairman Thomas W. Renwand.  She has authored many of the Board’s Adjudications and Opinions dealing with issues in the field of environmental law as well as practice and procedure before the Board.  Judge Wesdock serves as the Board's liaison to the Environmental Hearing Board Procedural Rules Committee and is a co-editor of the Board’s Practice and Procedure Manual which is relied on by practitioners before the Board.  She was instrumental in developing the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Environmental and Energy Law Section Pro Bono Program.   She also supervises the Board’s internship program and serves as a mentor to law students through the PBA Environmental and Energy Law Section.  In 2006, Judge Wesdock was awarded the prestigious Environmental Law Lifetime Achievement Award by her peers in the PBA Environmental and Energy Law Section in recognition of her work at the Board and her contributions to the Section.  Judge Wesdock is the Past Chair of both the PBA Environmental and Energy Law Section and the Allegheny County Bar Association Environmental and Energy Law Section.  Prior to joining the Board, she served as Assistant Corporate Counsel to Hanover Foods, Inc. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated summa cum laude as valedictorian.  She received her J.D., with honors, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

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Sarah L. Clark

Judge

Appointed to the Environmental Hearing Board by Governor Tom Wolf in October 2022 and is based in Harrisburg. In January 2019, she was appointed Director of Legislative Affairs for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation after serving in the same role at the Department of Environmental Protection since February 2015. Prior to joining the Wolf Administration, she served on the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Democratic Caucus, first as Legal Counsel, then as Executive Director. Judge Clark is active in the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy and Resources where she was appointed Planning Committee Chair for the section's 2022 Spring Conference and serves as a mentor on the section's Leadership Development Program. She received her J.D. and a Certificate in Environmental Law, Science and Policy from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, in which she also interned in the Environmental Law Clinic. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Art History and a dual major in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh.

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Paul J. Bruder Jr.

Judge

Appointed to the Environmental Hearing Board by Governor Shapiro in 2023. Judge Bruder received his undergraduate degree from Lebanon Valley College in 1990 and his law degree from the University of Dayton in 1994.  He began his career at the former Department of Environmental Resources, later the Department of Environmental Protection, then spent 25 years in private practice first at Rhoads & Sinon and then Mette, Evans & Woodside in Harrisburg, At both firms, he was the Chair of the Environmental and Natural Resources Practice Group, and also served as the President of the Mette Evans Board of Directors for two years. Judge Bruder was appointed by Governor Corbett to serve a four-year term on the Chesapeake Bay Citizens Advisory Council from 2012-2015. He lives in Camp Hill with his two daughters.

Assistant Counsel to The Environmental Hearing Board

Eric J. Delio

Senior Assistant Counsel

Joined the Environmental Hearing Board in 2013 as an Assistant Counsel to Judge Bernard A. Labuskes, Jr. and former Judge Michelle A. Coleman. He counsels the Board on complex issues in environmental law involving air quality, water quality, solid waste management, brownfield cleanups, mining, and oil and gas, among others. He also advises the Board on revisions to its rules of practice and procedure. He is a member of the Pennsylvania Office of General Counsel’s Mediation Practice Group. He received his B.A. in English, Professional Writing from Mercyhurst University, and his J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. While at the University of Pittsburgh he participated in the school’s Environmental Law Clinic, was recognized as a Distinguished Public Interest Scholar, and received the Allegheny County Bar Association Environment and Energy Law Section Scholarship Award.

Alisha M. Hilfinger

Assistant Counsel

 

Holds a B.S. in Psychology from Penn State University and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law where she was a Recipient of the Law and Leadership Scholarship. During law school, she worked as a summer associate at OGC Law, assisting in various civil litigation matters. Additionally, Alisha interned at Neighborhood Legal Services, working primarily with domestic abuse victims. After graduating, Alisha joined the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, clerking for the Honorable Deborah Kunselman. Pursuing her passion for environmental law, Alisha joined the Board in 2019 as the Assistant Counsel to the Honorable Steven C. Beckman.

Marguerite S. White

Assistant Counsel

 

Holds a BA in English with specialized honors in creative writing from Drew University. She received her JD and Environmental and Energy Law Certificate, cum laude, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where she was a Dean's Scholar, Public Interest Scholar, and the 2022 recipient of the Thomas M. Cooley, II Legal Writing Award. At Pitt, Marguerite participated in the Environmental Law Clinic and served as a teaching and research assistant to several members of the faculty. She was a summer associate at the Community Justice Project, where she had the opportunity to assist in civil litigation and general advocacy. Between college and law school, she was an educator and small business owner. Marguerite joined the Board in 2023 as Assistant Counsel to the Honorable Sarah L. Clark.

Board Secretary

Electronic Docket and Filing Manager

Website Administrator

Christine A. Walker

Board Secretary

Received her B.A. in Communications from Chatham College and her J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law, where she served on the Senior Staff of the Law Review and as Editorial Assistant of Juris. She is a recipient of Duquesne's Cali Excellence for the Future Award in Environmental Law. Christine began her career as Judicial Secretary to The Honorable S. Louis Farino on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. She joined the Environmental Hearing Board in 2013 as Law Clerk to The Honorable Steven C. Beckman in Erie. She was appointed Secretary to the Environmental Hearing Board in October 2016, after having served as Acting Secretary since January 2016. Christine is based in Pittsburgh and lives in the Pittsburgh area.

Rich Finley

Administrative Officer

Joined the Environmental Hearing Board as Administrative Officer in 2020. He is based in Harrisburg where he directs the operation of the Board's electronic filing and docketing system. Rich had previously served as Administrative Officer for the Governor's Office of General Counsel at the Department of Human Services.

History of the Environmental Hearing Board

The Environmental Hearing Board (Board) was created as part of the Department of Environmental Resources by the Act of December 3, 1970, P.L. 834, 71 P.S. § 510-1 et seq. It began operations on February 15, 1972(1).

When the Department of Environmental Resources (Department) was established, the Legislature abolished several other departments, boards, and commissions and transferred their powers and duties to the new department. The set-up was unique in that the Department was given its own legislative arm and its own judicial arm. The legislative arm, the Environmental Quality Board, was given the sole power to adopt environmental regulations. The judicial arm, the Environmental Hearing Board, was given the sole power to hear and decide appeals from Department actions. Both arms were given semi-independent status.

The Environmental Hearing Board was made completely independent of the Department(2) by the Environmental Hearing Board Act, Act of July 13, 1988, P.L. 530, 35 P.S. §§ 7511-7516. This Act, effective January 1, 1989, also increased the number of judges from three to five and required them to be full-time administrative law judges with a minimum of five years of relevant legal experience. The judges are appointed by the Governor, subject to Senate confirmation, and serve for six-year terms that may be renewed.

Since its inception, the Board has been an essential component of Pennsylvania’s environmental regulation.  From the very beginning, the Environmental Hearing Board has provided a forum where individuals, organizations, and corporations can seek judicial-like relief from Department actions. Although the Board is not part of the judicial branch of government, it operates like a court. Litigants file pleadings, motions and petitions, engage in discovery, take part in hearings, and submit briefs. Legal representation is required for all but individuals, and the Board urges all litigants to have a lawyer because of the technical, scientific nature of environmental law and the intricacies of entering evidence into the record. Financially eligible litigants before the Board, both individuals and corporations, may qualify for pro bono representation through the Pennsylvania Bar Association Environmental and Energy Law Section’s Pro Bono Committee.

The Environmental Hearing Board’s jurisdiction extends to reviewing final actions of the Department. The Board also hears certain actions brought by the Department, such as Complaints for Civil Penalties. Those cases that do not settle proceed to a final Board decision, either in the form of an adjudication (where a hearing has been held) or an opinion and order (where a dispositive motion has been granted). All decisions of the Environmental Hearing Board are published on the Board’s website.

Litigants dissatisfied with final decisions of the Board have the right to appeal to the Commonwealth Court and from there, if allowed, to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. These courts have rendered opinions in hundreds of Board cases, agreeing with the Board in the vast majority of cases.  This record reflects the high quality of the Board’s judicial work. Because of its position as the first link in the judicial review chain, the Environmental Hearing Board has often issued the first decisions interpreting many environmental laws and regulations. The Pennsylvania appellate courts have recognized the Environmental Hearing Board’s unique expertise in environmental regulation and have generally deferred to the Board’s interpretations.

The subject matter of the cases filed with the Environmental Hearing Board mirrors the statutes and regulations and environmental issues in existence at any given time. During the early years, the cases dealt primarily with water pollution and air pollution. Those were years when the Department was striving to have municipalities construct sewage systems and treatment plants and to get industries to install water and air purification devices. Subsequently the cases dealt extensively with solid waste (landfills and incinerators) and the surface mining of coal and non-coal minerals. In recent years, many of the cases have involved issues concerning the development of energy resources in an environmentally sound way. Other subject areas include dams and encroachments, oil and gas, air, safe drinking water, storage tanks, stormwater management, underground coal mining, water allocations, and sewage facilities planning.

Due to their technical nature, cases before the Board may involve lengthy hearings and produce thousands of pages of testimony and hundreds of exhibits. The adjudications may be quite extensive(3).

The Environmental Hearing Board acts de novo. This means that it decides cases on the basis of the evidence before it, which may differ from that considered by the Department. If the Board concludes that the Department incorrectly took an action, it has the authority to substitute its own discretion or remand the case to the Department for corrected action. The Board also has the authority to assess civil penalties under certain statutes and to award legal fees and expenses to qualifying litigants.

The Environmental Hearing Board has had 27 judges during its existence, including the five currently serving: Chief Judge and Chairperson Steven C. Beckman, and Judges Bernard A. Labuskes, Jr., Sarah L. Clark, MaryAnne Wesdock and Paul J. Bruder, Jr. Steven C. Beckman is the ninth Chief Judge and Chairperson of the Environmental Hearing Board. Christine Walker serves as the Secretary to the Environmental Hearing Board. Six others held the position prior to Ms. Walker.

The Environmental Hearing Board has had a procedural Rules Committee since its inception. These attorneys meet regularly to consider the Board’s procedural rules and recommend changes when deemed advisable. Pursuant to the Environmental Hearing Board Act, Act of July 113, 1988, P.L. 530, P.S. § 7517, the Rules Committee consists of nine persons, designated by the Governor, legislative leaders, the Department Secretary and the Department’s Citizens Advisory Council, for terms of two years. The current Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Rules Committee are Howard J. Wein, Esquire, and Philip L. Hinerman, Esquire, respectively.

The Board’s central office is located in Harrisburg. Since nearly the beginning of its tenure, the Board has also operated an office in Pittsburgh. An office was maintained in the Borough of Indiana for a few years ending in 1994. A Norristown office was opened in 2004 and an Erie office in 2013.

Environmental regulation in Pennsylvania began nearly a century ago. The Environmental Hearing Board’s role of providing all citizens with a forum where they can challenge the actions of the Department and receive judicial-like relief is an important role and the Environmental Hearing Board’s performance of it is part of a proud history.

FOOTNOTES:

1. Prior to that date, the Environmental Hearing Board’s functions were carried out by the Secretary of Environmental Resources, as provided by the enabling statute. A total of 151 appeals had been filed by February 15, 1972, of which 72 were still pending when the Board began functioning.

2. The Department of Environmental Resources was changed to the Department of Environmental Protection by Act No. 1995-18 effective July 1, 1995. This Act also created the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

3. Board adjudications contain detailed findings of fact with references to the evidence supporting them, detailed conclusions of law, a discussion of the facts and law, and a final order. This format makes it easier for litigants and appellate courts to review the opinions.

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Media Inquiries

All press and media inquiries should be directed to the Board Secretary, Christine Walker, at 717-783-4741.

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