Obituary: Robert P. Ging Jr. / Sportsman, environmental attorney who worked on behalf of individuals
Died Aug. 31, 2015
September 5, 2015 12:00 AM
Robert Ging in 2004
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
To those in southwestern Pennsylvania who had an environmental concern, complaint or cause, Bob Ging was known as “The Good Lawyer.”
Born Robert P. Ging Jr. 65 years ago in Brookline, Mr. Ging was an environmental attorney who regularly advocated for individuals and grass-roots groups against mining companies and shale gas drillers, landfill operators and a state environmental agency that was sometimes reluctant to enforce its own regulations, or was unresponsive to citizens’ environmental problems.
Mr. Ging, who lived along Laurel Hill Creek, outside of Confluence in southern Somerset County, died Monday of multiple organ failure following a lengthy illness, according to his legal secretary and longtime companion, Ruth Edwards.
Mr. Ging was an Eagle Scout and a lifetime member of Trout Unlimited, who reveled in being outdoors, Ms. Edwards said. He guarded the best trout “honey hole” on Laurel Hill Creek and kept his own counsel about where he found baskets of morel mushrooms each spring. A rotund man with a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile, he was as comfortable holding a fly rod or a hunting rifle as he was a tumbler of cognac and a good cigar.
A graduate of Duquesne Law School, Mr. Ging worked for the state Department of Environmental Resources, now the Department of Environmental Protection, in the mid-to-late 1970s, where he was one of the attorneys on the department’s “Environmental Pollution Strike Force,” which was formed to pursue landfill and mine operators whose discharges were in violation of the state’s Clean Streams Law.
He did his job so well that he lost it, said George Jugovic Jr., chief counsel for the environmental organization Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future and a former director of the DEP's southwest regional office.
“The story was that when the governor’s office changed hands, from [Milton] Shapp to [Dick] Thornburgh, the mining companies made a list of people they wanted fired and Bob’s name was on the top of that list,” Mr. Jugovic said. “He was fired.”
After he left the DER, Mr. Ging used his encyclopedic knowledge of state and federal environmental laws to become one of the first environmental attorneys to pursue “citizen lawsuits,” a provision of many environmental laws that allows regular citizens to take legal action to enforce those laws.
“It’s an accepted legal action today. It’s one of the reasons PennFuture was formed. But Bob was one of the first and few environmental attorneys doing that kind of work in the 1990s,” Mr. Jugovic said. “He was on the cutting edge, using those tools in environmental statutes to advocate for his clients.”
David Levdansky, a former Democratic state representative and a longtime friend of Mr. Ging’s, said he often consulted him on environmental legislation, and he praised him for his work on behalf of regular citizens.
“To find an attorney so well versed in environmental law and also one who used those skills as an advocate for people is rare,” Mr. Levdansky said. “I don’t know of anyone else like that; no one else around here who was considered a ‘go-to’ environmental attorney.”
“He will be missed,” said Bernard Labuskes Jr., a judge on the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, where many of Mr. Ging’s cases were argued. “He was a well-respected member of the environmental bar, and a strong and effective advocate for his clients. He was always on the side of people challenging the department (DEP), doing his best, fighting what he thought was the good fight.”
Mr. Ging is survived by his mother, Rosemary L. Ging; sisters Mary Ging, Patty Cole, Carol Erzen and Karen Beattie, all of Bethel Park; and brothers Don, Tim and Terry, also of Bethel Park; and another brother, Kevin, of Beaver, Beaver County.
There will be no viewing or service. Instead, Mr. Ging’s family and friends will follow his wish and “raise a pint” this weekend in celebration of his life.
Don Hopey: email@example.com, 412-263-1983 or on Twitter @donhopey.