HARRISBURG (April 11, 2014) — Former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary James M. Seif is the recipient of the 2014 Pennsylvania Bar Association Environmental and Energy Law Section Award.
Seif received the award for his "outstanding contributions to the development, improvement and furtherance of the profession of environmental law, the general benefits to the community as a result of such efforts, and outstanding personal achievements." The award was presented April 10 during the section’s Environmental Law Forum in Harrisburg.
Seif began his career in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh in 1971, where he prosecuted some of the earliest environmental cases of the modern era. He moved to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) office in Philadelphia, where he became chief of the legal branch. In 1975, he rejoined the U.S. Department of Justice’s criminal division in Washington D.C. In 1977, he worked on Gov. Dick Thornburgh’s gubernatorial campaign and, following the election, served as administrative assistant to the governor in Harrisburg for six years.
In 1985, Seif was appointed regional administrator of the EPA's six-state Region 3 Office in Philadelphia, serving four years in that post. He then joined the Philadelphia office of Dechert, Price and Rhoads, where his practice concentrated on environmental issues and the representation of environmental and energy companies.
In 1995, Gov. Tom Ridge appointed Seif as DEP Secretary. He led the development and implementation of the DEP’s environmental cleanup program under the Pennsylvania Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act (“Act 2”), one of the country’s most successful brownfields programs.
Seif co-chaired the Governor's 21st Century Environment Commission to identify environmental priorities for the new century, which led to a number of initiatives, including improved land use policies and Pennsylvania’s $650 million Growing Greener grant program. He led Gov. Ridge’s Regulatory Basics Initiative, which streamlined Pennsylvania’s regulations to be more consistent with federal law, and he directed DEP to consolidate various policies into the “Technical Guidance” references used today.
Seif also is credited for leading DEP into the Internet age, through the DEP’s development of “PA SiteFinder,” a first-of-its-kind web-based tool providing developers, real estate agents and property owners with a complete resource to find what they need when buying and selling brownfields for commercial or industrial development.
Following his service as DEP Secretary, Seif became vice president for corporate relations at PPL Inc, a Fortune 500 energy and utility company in Allentown, a position he held for six years. Thereafter, he served as director and then president of BioChem Technologies Inc. of King of Prussia, a consulting firm that provides technical optimization services designed to improve municipal wastewater treatment. Seif currently is the principal for Energy Consulting Services of Ridge Global LLC, a risk management and strategic consulting firm based in Washington D.C.
In 2000, he received a Lifetime Award for Public Service from the National Academy of Public Administration for his 30-year career in state and federal government. He also has served on the advisory committee of the Dick Thornburgh Legacy Project at the University of Pittsburgh.
A native of Pittsburgh, Seif attended Yale University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania and before the United States Supreme Court. He lives in Blue Bell, Montgomery County, with his wife, Patricia, and two daughters.
Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access to legal services; and serve the 27,000 lawyers who are members of the association.