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Heinz endows Environmental Legal Defense Fund

December 13, 1999|By DON AINES

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - A group that has provided legal assistance to opponents of a proposed Interstate 81 exit in the Chambersburg area has received a $45,000 grant from the Howard Heinz Endowment.

The grant represents almost a third of the $150,000 annual budget of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, according to Director of Program Development Stacey Schmader.

The fund relies on donations from endowments, foundations and individuals for its budget, she said.

Schmader said her group received a similar grant from the Heinz endowment in 1998. The grant was awarded to the fund's Grassroots Litigation Support Program, which assists individuals and groups unable to afford legal counsel in filing environmental lawsuits and permit appeals in Pennsylvania courts.

The case of Lois and Lamar White of Greene Township is one of seven cases the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is assisting throughout the state, Schmader said. The Whites sued the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation earlier this year over its plan to locate part of the Exit 7 project on their land.

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Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled in August that the Department of Transportation erred by not first having the interchange plan reviewed by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board.

The Department of Transportation appealed the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Schmader said the court has yet to decide if it will hear the appeal.

Federal funding for the interchange was approved 14 years ago, but construction has been held up by environmental and historic challenges by Greene Township and the Whites.

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