The Department of Environmental Protection is now accepting applications for environmental education grants to be released in 2012.

Schools, colleges, universities, county conservation districts, non-profit organizations, municipalities and businesses are eligible to apply for the grants, which will provide a maximum of $7,500 per applicant.

"These grants will help bring more information and education to the public," DEP secretary Mike Krancer said. "Stronger environmental education leads to a more-informed dialogue and better decisions."

The grants provide funding to create or develop projects to support a variety of environmental topics including: watershed management, water conservation, acid mine drainage, alternative energy, air quality, brownfields redevelopment and Chesapeake Bay restoration.

Last April, DEP awarded 102 grants totaling more than $538,000 to groups in support of environmental education programs across the state. Since the program's inception, the department has awarded more than $7 million in grants.

The program was established by the Environmental Education Act of 1993 and mandates that five percent of all pollution fines and penalties DEP collects annually be designated for environmental education.

Applications are available online at www.dep.state.pa.us [1] by clicking on Environmental Education, then Grants, or by calling the Environmental Education and Information Center at (717) 772-1828. The deadline to apply is Dec. 16.