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Connecticut Citizens Receive Earth Day Honors with Prestigious Regional EPA Environmental Award

Release Date: 04/22/2009
Contact Information: EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1010

(Boston, Mass. - April 21, 2009) – Three Connecticut citizens, one community group, and two innovative government programs from the Nutmeg State will be honored on Earth Day in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as EPA presents its annual Environmental Merit Awards for 2009.

The merit awards, recognizing significant contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving, are a unique way that EPA can recognize individuals and groups that are making significant impacts on environmental quality in distinct ways.

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 49 nominations from across New England.

The winners from Connecticut were among 31 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. The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Connecticut are:

Lifetime Achievement Environmental Merit Award:

Lynn Werner
Lynn Werner is executive director of the Housatonic Valley Association, one of the oldest citizen’s watershed protection organizations in the county. Since graduating from the University of Connecticut in 1976, Lynn has worked to protect the environment. She began at the Conn. Department of Environmental Protection conducting creel surveys and monitoring fish populations. In 1983, she joined the Housatonic Valley Association where she worked with citizens and local governments to make sure their voices were heard on regional environmental issues, including construction of gas pipelines, siting of low level nuclear waste sites and construction of a new four-lane highway. She and her team worked with the National Park Service to protect more than 7,000 acres on the Housatonic River. She helped grassroots groups and state and local agencies as the EPA began removing PCBs from the Housatonic. And in 1991 she began a 29-town program to protect open space and improve public access along both the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers. In addition to her work with the Housatonic Valley Association, which has doubled in size and capacity since she began there, Lynn also serves on several other environmental boards and committees. She is a founding member of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, and a member and former chair of the Rivers Advisory Committee for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Individual Environmental Merit Award:

Katherine G. Kennedy, M.D.
CT Stop the Pipeline
Dr. Kennedy began the bipartisan, grass roots organization “CT Stop the Pipeline” to educate and promote civic activism to prevent the installation of an interstate gas pipeline by Islander East across the Long Island Sound. The pipeline would have destroyed hundreds of acres of protected open space and natural habitats and irrevocably damaged the waters, seabed and aquatic life of the Long Island Sound. CT Stop the Pipeline and Dr. Kennedy’s voice were heard at all levels of government, including the town, CT DEP, the CT Citing Council, the CT Attorney General, the CT General Assembly, the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the FERC, as well as many state and federal courtrooms. Dr. Kennedy’s success means that the current and future generations will be able to enjoy and marvel at the beauty and the sustenance that Long Island Sound provides to millions of people. Dr. Kennedy and her organization have left a legacy for other communities to have as a template to forge partnerships and coalitions, education the public and government, and create a record that can be effectively applied to protecting our resources and environment.

William Leahy
Chief Executive Director for Operations for the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University
Bill Leahy is responsible for the overall organization and operation management of the Eastern Connecticut State University, Institute for Sustainable Energy and has been a tireless advocate for energy efficiency. The Institute was established in 2001 to identify, develop, and implement the means for achieving a sustainable energy future and works on education, information and public policy. Focusing on energy education, Bill has created a one-week course to train school building management staff as well as curriculum for high school students. Through his efforts, over 60 school systems and 200 schools have been trained to work on energy efficiency in their schools. This training included the use of the ENERGY STAR portfolio manager tool, the process of benchmarking municipal buildings and tracking of energy use as a means of prioritizing the worst energy consuming buildings. Bill also works with other energy organizations in the State including the CT Energy Fund, the CT legislature and the CT Green Building champter of the US Green Building council.

Environmental, Community, Academia, & Non-profit Organizations Environmental Merit Award:

Westport, Connecticut District 4 RTM Members
Jonathan Cunitz, Liz Milwe, Gene Seidman, Jeffrey Wieser
In early 2008, the four Members of District 4 of the Westport, Connecticut Representative Town Meeting (RTM) met to discuss the concern of the increasing appearance of plastic bags on the town’s roads, streams, river and beaches. Jonathan Cunitz, Liz Milwe, Gene Seidman, and Jeffrey Wieser spent the next several months researching the issue of plastic bags in the environment and the available alternatives to remedy this growing problem. After many meetings with town leaders, merchants, students, residents and other members of the Westport RTM, they concluded that the appropriate response was to enact an ordinance that encouraged the use of reusable shopping bags and ban the use of plastic retail checkout bags. In the months to follow, the ordinance was discussed at various meetings and finally submitted to the proper committees for approval. It received overwhelming support, and was approved by a vote of 26 to 5. Westport has now become one of the first communities east of California to pass a ban on retail checkout bags and its ordinances is the most extensive in the country, applying to all stores and even farmers’ markets and sidewalk sales.

Local, State or Federal Governmental Environmental Merit Award:

State Electronic Challenge Partners – CT DEP
The state government of Maine; the Department of Environmental Protection in Connecticut; the City of Keene in New Hampshire; and the school department in the city of Providence, Rhode Island, are all being recognized for their involvement in a voluntary program that promotes greener use and disposal of government technology equipment. The challenge is administered by the Northeast Recycling Council. In its first year, the State Electronics Challenge signed on 29 partners, including entire state governments as well as small municipal departments. The four organizations chosen for awards have shown exceptional leadership in the field. The achievements of this group include purchasing greener or “environmentally preferable” computers, reducing energy use by computers through software and employee education, and managing old electronics through reuse, recycling and other methods that reduce their impact. Altogether, the partners in this program reduced energy by the amount used by 1662 households a year; avoided greenhouse gases equivalent to taking 1,370 cars off the road for a year; and eliminated 152 metric tons of trash, the amount of waste generated by 76 households a year.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Team – CT DEP
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Team has set up innovative measures to control greenhouse gases, including the first-in-the-nation auction of CO2 emissions allowances. The six New England states are among 10 states pioneering this first mandatory cap and trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and states have committed to cap and then reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by power plants in their region, limiting the total regional contribution to greenhouse gases. A September auction brought in $28 million for Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Maryland and two more auctions have been held since. New England states have made more than $80 million in revenues from the auctions, which can be used for future energy cutting and efficiency programs.

More Information: Environmental Merit Awards (www.epa.gov/ne/ra/ema)