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EPA Awards 3 Environmental Merit Awards to Vermont Recipients

Release Date: 04/22/2014
Contact Information: EPA New England Public Affairs, (617) 918-1010

(Boston, Mass: April 22, 2014) Today, the U.S. EPA recognized three organizations and/or individuals from Vermont at the 2014 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony. The Vermont awardees were among 26 recipients across New England honored for contributing to improving New England’s environment.

Each year EPA’s New England office recognizes individuals and groups whose work has protected or improved the region’s environment in distinct ways. The merit awards, given out since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts.

“We extend our congratulations and gratitude to this year’s Environmental Merit Award winners, who are helping to ensure a cleaner environment and healthier communities here in New England,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “In addition to iconic natural beauty and vibrant communities, New England is fortunate to have citizens who care deeply about the environment we share.”

The 2014 Environmental Merit Awards program was dedicated to Ira Leighton, former deputy regional administrator for EPA New England’s office who died in 2013 after 41 years of service to EPA.

“Ira truly loved the Environmental Merit Award ceremonies and deeply appreciated the environmental stewardship and commitment of citizens across New England,” said Spalding.

The Environmental Merit Awards, which are given to people who have already taken action, are awarded 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 presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals. The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Vermont listed by category are:

Individual

Pixley Tyler Hill and Ted Tyler
Highgate Springs, Vermont

Pixley Tyler Hill and her brother Ted Tyler are co-owners of the Tyler Place Family Resort in Highgate Springs, north of Burlington on Lake Champlain. The resort’s history spans six generations from an 1800’s tenting community to the family destination of today. Generations of visitors first learned the beauty of Lake Champlain with the Tyler family. Pixley and Ted are also well known as fierce and tenacious advocates for protecting Lake Champlain from nonpoint sources of pollution. Pixley is the founder of the influential watershed organization Friends of Northern Lake Champlain, formerly named Friends of Missisquoi Bay. Pixley and Ted’s commitment to Lake Champlain extends beyond the north lake and Vermont, as they have both served as a long-time member of the Lake Champlain Committee which serves Vermont and New York. Ted served for nearly a decade on the Vermont Citizens Advisory Committee on the Future of Lake Champlain, a governor appointed committee tasked with crafting annual recommendations for lake protection. When Ted’s turn was over, Vermont Governor Shumlin appointed Pixley to the seat he long-held by her brother. Perhaps, one of the most epic enjoyable events Pixley is known for is the Annual Tyler Place Event. For the past 10 years, the Tyler family has generously and graciously hosted an annual dinner at their own expense for hundreds of lake advocates in the northern lake from Vermont, New York and Quebec to discuss lake issues with legislators, researchers, citizen advocates, shoreline landowners, and many more. The Vermont Governor has often attended these events.

Enviro/Community/Academia/Nonprofit

Farmers’ Watershed Alliance
Vermont

The Farmers’ Watershed Alliance is a non-profit, dairy farmer-based organization in northern Vermont’s Franklin and Grand Isle counties. The Alliance was established, in collaboration with the University of Vermont Extension, to promote good environmental stewardship practices and improve water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin. The Alliance is a wonderful example of the power of peer-to-peer networks. Its founders understood that farmers are more likely to accept help and advice, and sometimes a challenge, from their fellow farmers.

Dairy farmers continually face fluctuating milk prices, increasing fuel and fertilizer costs, and expensive technologies and management practices to minimize pollution problems coming from farm production areas and fields. This organization is helping to bridge the gap between farmers wanting to do the right thing to prevent impacts to water quality but feeling uncertain about where to turn to for education, technical assistance, and financial resources. The Alliance shares information and uses demonstration projects to show farmers how they can address water quality problems. It can help farmers identify environmental risks on their farm and develop an action plan specific to those risks. The Alliance helps organize training sessions with the University of Vermont Extension and engages in discussions about water quality challenges and opportunities with federal and state agencies.

The Farmers’ Watershed Alliance’s success in farmer-to-farmer collaboration has led to the formation of the Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition, a sister organization, made up of farmers in the middle and southern portions of Lake Champlain Basin, interested in promoting sustainable agricultural practices. These networks are playing an important role in shaping Vermont’s plans to restore Lake Champlain.

Business/Industry/Trade or Professional

SunCommon
Duane Peterson and James Moore, co-Presidents
Waterbury, Vt.

It all started with a pilot project within the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. VPIRG Energy was created to make it easy and affordable for Vermonters yearning for sustainable energy sources for themselves. Within a year they helped 300 families to go solar. They knew they had a business model that worked but also realized that to scale it up to serve many more Vermonters they would need a separate entity and investment capital, and so SunCommon was born in early 2012. Their mission: to tear down the barriers that made renewable energy inaccessible and repower Vermont communities, one home, school and business at a time.

In two short years SunCommon has grown to become Vermont’s largest residential solar business, helping over 700 Vermont homeowners to go solar. SunCommon’s commitment to positive environmental impact runs throughout its business process. Its headquarters are in The Energy Mill, Vermont’s largest “net zero” office building. SunCommon is also a pioneering Benefit Corporation, with a legal charter that directs them to attend to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Benefit Corporations put their investors, employees, and neighbors on notice that while they intend to make a profit so that they can grow their business, they also will do right by their workers, the communities in which they operate and the habitats that sustain them.

Recently, 92 companies worldwide were recognized for creating the most positive overall social and environmental impact by the nonprofit B Lab with the release of the third annual B Corp Best for the World list. The list honors businesses that earned an overall score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, community and the environment.

Leighton “In Service to States” Award
The Ira Leighton "In Service to States" Environmental Merit Award was initiated by several environmental groups and EPA New England. The groups involved were the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, the Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association and the New England state Environmental Commissioners, along with EPA.

The award went to Ken Kimmell, who worked at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection from 2011 to March 2014 and before that as General Counsel at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs from 2007 through 2011. During that time, Kimmell demonstrated a stellar record protecting the environment, proactively addressing climate change, promoting sustainability and innovation, and advancing clean energy technology at the state, regional, and local levels.