Heinz Endowments: Grants for Marine Conservation

OVERVIEW: The Heinz Endowments'  environmental giving focuses on the health and sustainability of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania, but that includes giving toward clean water and watershed protection.

IP TAKE: This large regional funder predominately views the environment through the lens of cities, namely Pittsburgh, but is also deeply involved in protecting and restoring the state’s rivers. Heinz funds work related to coal and fracking pollution. The foundation only funds organizations in Pennsylvania.

PROFILE: Led by Chair Teresa Heinz Kerry, the Heinz Endowments represents two separate funds, one founded by Howard Heinz, the other by Vira Heinz. With formidable combined assets of around $1.5 billion, Heinz is a powerhouse in Pennsylvania and its home base of Pittsburgh. The Endowments seek to "help [its] region thrive as a whole community, economically, ecologically, educationally and culturally, while advancing the state of knowledge and practice in the fields in which [it works]." It supports arts & culture, children & families, community & economic development, education, and environment.

Launched in 1994, the Heinz environment program funds projects and programs that address Pittsburgh's industrial history of Pittsburgh and its water and air pollution legacies while rendering the city more sustainable for the future. As a result, its environmental grantmaking does not strictly focus on conservation or energy, but a mix of urban sustainability and environmental health. Marine conservation related grantmaking supports planning, innovative technologies, and technical assistance for green construction as it related to marine conservation. Much of Heinz’s environmental funding supports rivers given Pittsburgh's location at the confluence of the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio. In addition, the city has had some of the nation’s worst air and water pollution. Grantees include the Clean Water Fund, and city riverfront park and trail systems, with regular grants to groups like Friends of the Riverfront, Inc., and Riverlife. However, most of the foundation's marine conservation grantmaking funds protecting watersheds, largely from coal and, more recently, natural gas extraction activities. The foundation has also awarded multiple grants to the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association for restoration and protection, as well as the Loyalhanna Watershed Association. Lastly, it also focuses on the impacts of fracking on Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams, tracking the damage and helping communities respond to the impacts.

It would be impossible to touch on this last category without mentioning a controversy the foundation had to slog through in 2013. Heinz was one of the founding partners in the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which was created to form voluntary best practices for the gas drilling industry that has exploded across the mid-Atlantic region. The center and the foundation came under fire from the environmental community, since Chevron and Shell were also founding partners. Former Heinz President Robert Vagt had significant financial and professional ties to the oil and gas industry. The foundation has since ousted some of its leadership and ended its relationship with the Center. 

Competition for Heinz funding is difficult, but the foundation accepts applications online. 


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