Kayak Pittsburgh, an entrepreneurial effort of nonprofit Venture Outdoors, rents kayaks and canoes and leads river outings on the Allegheny River in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh.
John Heinz’s Legacy
The fight for the world’s environment
John Heinz’s love of the outdoors naturally led to his active involvement in protecting the global environment. While he was in the House of Representatives only a short time, he introduced legislation that provided for the formulation of federal health standards for municipal drinking water, helped to secure a federal contract to U. S. Steel for converting coal to non-polluting fuel and developed a plan to give industry incentives to help meet the nation’s goal of a pollution-free environment. In addition, he voted to reauthorize both the Clean Air Act and the Solid Waste Disposal Act.
This activism became even more intense after Heinz moved to the Senate. Early in his first year, he cosponsored legislation to establish a Department of Energy with the goal of securing effective management to assure a coordinated national energy policy. Additional measures to aid the environment came in the forms of legislation that Heinz sponsored or cosponsored: to further fund the Tinicum Marsh Environmental Center and to create the Coastal Barrier Resources System to restrict federal expenditures that encourage development of coastal barriers.
He worked to amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the National Energy Conservation Policy Act, the former to designate appliances that have to meet energy conservation standards and the latter to require Federal agencies to improve construction designs so that energy consumption per square foot would be reduced. The Energy Conservation Policy Act also established the Interagency Energy Management Task Force to coordinate federal energy savings. It is fitting that one of the last pieces of legislation that he sponsored would be for environmental protection, and it would become law a little more than a year after his death. The law added certain segments of the Allegheny River to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and it designated certain segments of rivers in Mill Creek, Jefferson and Clarion Counties that meet the Allegheny River and the Clarion River for study as potential additions to the System. As an avid fly fisherman and sportsman, Heinz had a keen interest in preserving the natural world for the thousands of Americans like him.
It was not always easy for John Heinz to be a friend of the environment, coming, as he did, from a state where coal is king. In an election year, in a vote on Clean Air Act Amendments, he voted against coal interests in favor of better air quality. He felt sure he would lose the support of the miners’ union as a result. Instead, because of his solid record on labor issues, especially on the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the union continued to support him and he won re-election.
In 1988, led by Tom Lovejoy of the Smithsonian Institution, Heinz and Tim Wirth, then Senator from Colorado, went to the Amazon rainforest to try to halt the construction of Highway 365. There, along with Teresa Heinz and Al Gore, they witnessed the destruction of the forest firsthand. To their hosts the legislators announced that they had already begun work on a four-part strategy to help the Brazilian government tackle the problem. Also in 1988, Senators Heinz and Wirth released their commissioned Project 88—Harnessing Market Forces to Protect Our Environment: Initiatives for the New President. It was a study, headed by Robert Stavins of Harvard University and researched by 120 experts, that outlined market-based solutions to environmental problems. The tradable permit system for acid-rain reduction, recommended by Project 88, was included in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Project 88—Round II was a follow-up study, released in 1991, that outlined market-based solutions for global climate change, waste management and natural resource management.
Heinz was an early proponent of another innovative measure, “debt-for-nature swaps.” A debt-for-nature swap relieves a government’s foreign debt burden in exchange for its commitment to spend a certain amount of their local currency for conservation work. In 1989, he authored an amendment that directed U.S. directors of multilateral development banks to explore using debt-for-nature swaps. Today, debt-for-nature swaps are working all over the world.
Heinz worked with Sen. Howard Metzenbaum in 1989 with the intent that each state energy conservation plan that received federal assistance would have a specified improvement in energy efficiency as one of its goals. To assist the states in this endeavor, the State Energy Advisory Board was established. Its mandate is to (1) make recommendations regarding energy efficiency objectives; (2) encourage technology transfer of federal research and development results with respect to energy efficiency and renewable energy resources; (3) serve as liaison between the states and the Department of Energy on energy programs; and (4) submit an annual status report to Congress.
Heinz’s work on the environment extended beyond the halls of Congress. In 1989, he initiated the U.S. branch of GLOBE (Global Legislator’s Organization for a Balanced Environment) and served as its first president. The goal of GLOBE USA was and continues to be finding solutions to pressing environmental issues through informed and balanced policy. In his capacity as president, he brought the governments of Japan and the former Soviet Union into the GLOBE fold. Rep. Connie Morella, who served with Heinz on GLOBE USA, said of his work, “Senator Heinz was driven by more than just an eagerness to serve; he was driven by an intense commitment to a legacy for his children and their generation—a legacy of clean air, untouched rainforests and pure oceans. Senator Heinz was an eloquent spokesman for the environment because his dedication was so clearly sincere. As was the case with all his public endeavors, the Senator’s actions on GLOBE radiated with energy, enthusiasm and urgency.”
Heinz also wanted to educate the public and other lawmakers on the importance of environmental protection. To this end, he was a member of the board of Earth Day, which works around the world to promote a healthy environment and a sustainable planet; he co-chaired the Alliance to Save Energy with the goal of promoting energy efficiency and security; and he served as a board member for the Environment and Energy Study Institute, founded by legislators in 1984, to carry out policymaker education and analysis projects in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable energy, global climate change, agriculture, biofuels, smart-growth and clean bus technologies.