Chief Counsel for Pa. Department of Environmental Protection to Receive PBA Environmental and Energy Law Section Lifetime Achievement Award

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Jan. 25, 2023) Diana J. Stares, chief counsel for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), will receive the 2023 Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Environmental and Energy Law Section Lifetime Achievement Award during the Environmental Law Forum, March 15-16, at Hilton Harrisburg.


The award honors contributions made to the section and general efforts that enhance the development, improvement and furtherance of the practice of environmental law that benefit the community or represent outstanding personal achievement.


Stares was appointed chief counsel for the Pennsylvania DEP in 2020. In her capacity overseeing a 100-person staff, Stares restructured the Office of Chief Counsel and directed the creation of DEP’s external Title VI nondiscrimination program, which became effective Jan. 1, 2023.


Prior to her current role, Stares served as the DEP’s litigation coordinator for four years and helped shape its implementation of the 2013 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which reinvigorated the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Starting her career in 1980 as a DEP staff attorney, Stares defended and applied the new statutory and regulatory requirements of Pennsylvania’s coal mining primacy program. Her work on an enforcement matter set the stage for the 1984 landmark decision in DER v. Penn Terra in which the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the automatic stay in the Bankruptcy Code does not bar a state from using its police powers to protect the environment. From 1990 to 2011, Stares served as regional counsel for the department’s Southwest Regional Office in Pittsburgh directing the work of 17 attorneys on numerous matters including the development and implementation of Act 2, the New Source Review prosecution of the Allegheny Energy Power Plant, the Que Creek Mine Rescue, the Bankruptcy Workout of LTV Steel and many challenges to the advent of longwall mining in Pennsylvania.


In 2011, Stares was appointed as the inaugural director of the Center for Energy Policy and Management at Washington & Jefferson College, Washington, Pennsylvania. She served in that capacity until 2016 when she returned to work at the DEP. While at the college, Stares oversaw academic research on energy policy issues; created the Shale Gas Knowledge Hub, which provided the public with unbiased information on shale gas development; and presented a lecture series on energy law and policy.


Throughout her career, Stares has been active in the legal community. A longtime member of the Allegheny County Bar Association, Stares served as duty officer of its Professional Ethics Committee for 18 years, and program chair and later chair of its Environment and Energy Law Section Committee. From 2020 to 2022, Stares was a member of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board Rules Committee.

Stares has been a lecturer for a variety of organizations, including the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement for which she co-taught courses for the staffs of state coal mining regulatory agencies across the country. In addition, she has presented on environmental topics for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s Environmental Law Forum, and the Allegheny County and Washington County bar associations.


One of her nominators said Stares is “a lawyer who embodies professionalism, diligence, responsibility and concern for the law; and who has won the respect of judges and opponents, and the admiration of her colleagues.” Another nominator said: “She is seen as a role model by her colleagues throughout the department. In particular, she has been a strong advocate for the advancement of women in the field of environmental law and government.”


Stares received her Juris Doctor from Duquesne University School of Law and her bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University.


Offering up to 12 substantive and two ethics CLE credits, the Environmental Law Forum will feature updates on energy, conventional land developments, environmental litigation, changing laws, developing legislation, new technologies and more. For additional information, visit