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Vermont Citizens Receive Prestigious Regional EPA Environmental Awards

Release Date: 04/25/2012
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – April 25, 2012) – Two Vermont citizens, an environmental organization and government group will be honored today in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as EPA presented its annual Environmental Merit Awards for 2012.

The merit awards, recognizing valuable 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.

Awarded 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 nearly 100 nominations from across New England.

Awards were given in the following categories: individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Each year, EPA also may present lifetime achievement awards for individuals.

"Congratulations to all of our 2012 Environmental Merit Award recipients. These awards are close to my heart because they acknowledge the importance of environmental stewardship, said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. "As stewards, all of these recipients are making real and lasting differences in communities across our beautiful region. Whether it's finding innovative ways to safeguard our water resources or conserving the energy our communities use each day, each individual has advanced our mission to protect human health and the environment."

More information on all Environmental Merit Award Winners from this year and past years is available at: http://www.epa.gov/region1/ra/ema/index.html

The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Vermont are:

Individual Merit Award

Julia Lloyd Wright
Weathersfield ,Vt.
 

Julia Lloyd Wright is the volunteer energy coordinator for her town of Weathersfield, Vermont. Julia has worked to make the town more energy-efficient, helping it save money and reduce greenhouse gases. She has visited all of about 30 businesses in Weathersfield to review lighting fixtures and distribute information on lighting upgrades and state rebates. To help residents, Julia created and distributes a flyer that describes how residents can become more efficient. Julia works to get the funds needed for energy improvements, including a grant from the regional planning commission for an energy audit at the local library and funding for a new thermostat and window insulation. She got funding for an insulation project at the town garage and she got a summer intern from EPA to help measure progress in her town’s municipal buildings. Julia collected energy bills for town buildings and the intern entered the energy data. The results showed the town garage had a 40 percent decrease in energy use from such efficiency measures as replacing garage doors, adding new lighting and insulating the roof. Julia has represented Weathersfield at Vermont energy conferences, regional energy roundtables, and seminars on energy efficiency and clean energy at Vermont Law School. Her latest goal is to help homeowners reduce energy usage by 10 percent. Julia sees what has to be done, and then does the work. Her efforts have helped Weathersfield become more energy-efficient. She is the embodiment of the Environmental Merit Award.

Norm Staunton
Association of Vermont Recyclers, Colchester, Vt.


Norm Staunton, executive director and CEO of the Association of Vermont Recyclers, has guided the organization through the most challenging period in its 30-year history. Norm, who is also Vermont state e-waste director for the Northeast Resource Recovery Association, has ensured consistent educational outreach through the state on an increasingly tight budget and since July 2011 has managed a new, statewide, free program that has resulted in millions of pounds of electronic waste getting recycled. This program, called the Extended Producer Responsibility Electronics Recycling Program, is co-sponsored by the state and the electronics manufacturers. To date, almost 3.1 million pounds of electronic waste have been recycled at no cost to Vermont residents. The organization expects to exceed its 3.4 million-pound target for this year by more than a million pounds. Without Norm’s expertise and dedication to recycling, this would not have been possible. Norm’s other areas of work include designing and improving school recycling programs, organics management and solid waste policy. He should be recognized this year for the pivotal role he has played in bringing free electronic recycling to Vermont households and in launching a program that should serve as a model nationwide.


Enviro, Community, Academia & Nonprofit Environmental Merit Award

Lake Champlain International, Colchester, Vt.
James Ehlers and Scott Goddard


Lake Champlain, the sixth largest lake in the U.S., is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people each year for recreation and contributes about $4 billion a year to the region’s economy through tourism. For 12 years Lake Champlain International has worked to address water pollution runoff, an underfunded wastewater infrastructure, nuisance species and fish passage barriers. It has done this through innovative programs, motivating the public, and working with other organizations, government agencies, the media and the sports community. The organization’s BLUEŽ certification program has been a major success story. The program educates homeowners about urban stormwater runoff and motivates them to install stormwater prevention features while they learn practices to protect their watershed. More than 3,000 homeowners in five towns have been reached. The organization has also worked with partners to acquire more than $2 million in federal funds for Lake Champlain conservation projects and has represented citizens before the state in efforts to reduce agricultural runoff pollution from farms. In addition, it is collaborating with the state to provide funding for wastewater infrastructure improvements. Lake Champlain International also secured $100,000 for colonial nesting birds, including money to reduce the population of double-crested cormorants. The organization’s outreach activities to youth include an annual Father’s Day fishing derby, the Bobber Bob youth education program that reaches more than 1,000 children and their families and donations of some $30,000 to local mentoring organizations. Finally, Lake Champlain International was granted a legal motion to comment on the Swanton Dam hydroelectric project, whose removal will improve the quality of native fisheries in the lake. Board President Scott Goddard and Executive Director James Ehlers have been instrumental to the success of this organization.


Government Environmental Merit Award

Vermont DEC, Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Division, Winooski, Vt.
Vermont Rural Water Association, Essex Junction, Vt.

Staff and managers of the Drinking Water Programs in Connecticut and Vermont, along with their partners, played an impressive role in responding to the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene which slammed into New England last August. Although their stories were different, both states faced daunting challenges considering the extent of potential problems relating to hundreds of water systems and the safety of public drinking water. In Vermont, rising rivers washed out roads and left towns isolated. Much of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, including the Water Supply Division, was literally under water, with 90 percent of its files and computers lost or destroyed. Helping impacted water systems became a monumental task. Despite the communication challenges, the staff of VT DEC persevered, finding ways to contact and assist the public water supplies impacted by the storm. Staff from the Drinking Water Program used home computers and personal cell phones, often calling from ad-hoc meetings in muddy parking lots. With key and timely assistance from Vermont Rural Water Association, the staff reached out to over a hundred water systems in the impacted areas. In the end, 30 public water supply systems, serving more than 16,000 people, were put on boil water orders and effectively managed throughout the water crisis.  What made these state responses truly outstanding was the way dedicated drinking water program employees continued to work long hours in difficult conditions, despite personal losses. Despite the devastation, within a few short weeks the vast majority of water systems were back to normal operations. The dedication of these Drinking Water Programs to ensure the safety of public drinking water for the citizens of Connecticut and Vermont, even in difficult times, was truly unprecedented.

More information on EPA’s Environmental Merit Awards in New England (http://www.epa.gov/region1/ra/ema/index.html)

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NOTE: Edited on 04/26/2012 to correct location for Lake Champlain International and correct titles for LCI's Goddard and Ehlers.