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Vermonters Receive Earth Day Honors with Prestigious Regional EPA Environmental Award

Release Date: 04/22/2008
Contact Information: Paula Ballentine, (617) 918-1027

(Boston -- April 22, 2008) - Four citizens and nine Vermont groups were honored today in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as EPA presented the 2008 Environmental Merit Awards. Recognizing significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving, the Vermont awardees included one for lifetime achievement, two for individual merit awards, one for work by a environmental/community/academia/non-profit organization, one for efforts by local, state or federal governments and one for business, industry and professional organizations.

Given out by EPA since 1970, the merit awards honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts to preserve the region's environment. This year's competition drew approximately 77 nominations from across New England.

“These awards are among the highest honors EPA can bestow to recognize environmental accomplishments,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England Office. “The work of these individuals, organizations and businesses reflect the best attributes of New Englanders, working to find solutions to environmental issues. I offer my gratitude for their extraordinary contributions in protecting the environment.”

The winners from Vermont were among 38 from across New England. Awards were given in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Also, each year EPA may present lifetime achievement awards for individuals. Environmental Merit Award Winners from Vermont are:

Lifetime Achievement Environmental Merit Award:
Richard A Valentinetti

As director of the Air Pollution Control Division of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Richard Valentinetti is the longest serving state air director in the country. He is also member of the board of NESCAUM and a member of the executive committee of the board of the Northeast States Center for a Clean Air Future. He has chaired the National Association of Clean Air Agencies and the New England governments Eastern Canadian Premiers Acid Rain Steering Committee. In his jobs, he led development of the National Monitoring Strategy as well as the NEG/ECP’s successful mercury reduction action plan, leading to the reduction of mercury discharged by 50 percent in five years. His list of accomplishments is extensive. He was instrumental in developing state air toxics programs in Vermont and other states and helped create the MidAtlantic Northeast Visibility Union. He led the effort to adopt low emission vehicle laws in Vermont and the northeast and was key in designing the regional greenhouse gas initiative. In addition, he was instrumental in developing Vermont’s Climate Mitigation Plan and as a member of the Ozone Transport Commission, pushed for cleaner cars and reduced power plant emissions.

Individual Environmental Merit Award:
Andrea Morgante
LaPlatte Headwaters Initiative on Bissonette Farm

When the 628-acre Bissonette Farm went on the market, longtime resident and volunteer Andrea Morgante knew she had to act. A volunteer at the Hinesburg Land Trust, Andrea began a three-year effort to conserve the land. She volunteered 25 hours a week for most of this time, often dropping paid work as a landscape designer. Andrea realized it was a complicated project and brought in the Trust for Public Land and Vermont Land Trust. She then went about raising money wherever she could. She raised $3.7 million from land trusts, the federal government, 130 individual donors and 11 private foundations. Her efforts led to a 300-acre Hinesburg town forest, restoration of 140 acres of wetlands and three miles of the LaPlatte River and protection of 150 acres of farmland and 140 acres of private forestland. This all happened in a community experiencing tremendous development pressures. Andrea was the impetus behind this project and followed it through. The nominator wrote “Andrea symbolizes what an individual environmental steward is capable of achieving.”

Individual Environmental Merit Award:
Ernest Pomerleau
Pomerleau Real Estate

Local developer and real estate executive, Ernest Pomerleau, delicately finessed competing interests as he chaired the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change. The commission is charged with helping Vermont reduce greenhouse gas emission by 25 percent by 2012 and 50 percent by 2028. It involves a diverse group of people who must draft recommendations on how Vermont can reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, limit production of greenhouse gases, develop a green and sustainable economic sector and retain a pro-business predisposition while getting residents to take responsibility for reversing the trend. Ultimately, the group drafted 38 policy recommendations. Ernest engaged in delicate negotiations to get a collaborative win for business and the environment, universities, scientists and budget watchdogs. Vermont is often seen as a lab for creative solutions and these recommendations bolster that image. The Pomerleau Commission set the standard for individual, local and state action.

Environmental, Community, Academic & Non-Profit Environmental Merit Award:
Vermont Land Trust
With 44 staff members in the state, Vermont Land Trust has worked for 31 years to protect water quality, working farms, productive forestland and to encourage community projects that enhance a town’s quality of life. With development threatening Vermont’s rural character, the land trust has worked to prevent loss of working lands and to protect natural resources and public access to recreational spots. A total of more than 460,000 acres of land has been protected by the trust, which has completed at least one project in 228 of Vermont’s 255 towns. As part of its work, the trust has conserved more than 650 working farms, created a coalition to establish a quasi state board that helped the nonprofit community create 7000 units of affordable housing and conserve more than 325,000 acres of land and has partnered with dozens of towns and local land trusts on projects that help communities preserve their quality of life and sense of place.

Local, State or Federal Governmental Environmental Merit Award:
South Burlington Stormwater Services

South Burlington Stormwater Services Division, the first municipal stormwater utility in northern New England, began two years ago and has two outstanding years of environmental successes. The division has made South Burlington a model for managing water quality. The division uses high quality operations, education, collaboration and cutting edge science to carry out an outstanding program of system maintenance, capital project construction, customer outreach and assistance and enforcement. The division grew out of the city’s recognition in 2001 that it faced huge and complex stormwater issues, including failing systems in older developments and significant phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain from runoff. After four years of working to get the financial, political and technical strength to move forward, the city formed the new division with an operating budget of $1.1 million. Staff have rebuilt catch basins and pipes and eliminated dozens of illicit discharges and connections while working to educate the public on stormwater issues. In short, the region’s first Stormwater Services Division exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.

Business, Industry and Professional Organizations Environmental Merit Award:
Vermont Water and Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARNS)

About 1,500 public water supply systems were hurt by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the south. New England has recently faced flooding that threatened the safety of our own supplies. The New England State Water and Wastewater Response Networks involve utilities, associations and states establishing mutual aid programs in each state. These programs will allow groups to exchange information and work together when an emergency hits. Based on lessons learned, the federal government recognizes timely responses must happen first at the local and state levels. Utilities helping utilities in mutual aid is clearly the most expeditious way to deal with water emergencies. When Bethel, Maine lost its water supply in a landslide, Auburn’s Water District came to its aid with staff and tractors to build a temporary impoundment. This case study will now be played out throughout New England as mutual aid programs start up in each state. No other part of the country took on the challenge of simultaneously establishing response networks in all states. Because of this progress, New England was designated a national pilot to develop the first Inter-State WARN.