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EPA honors 11 Bay Area environmental heroes at Earth Day ceremony

Release Date: 4/21/2005
Contact Information: Laura Gentile ( - 415/947-4227 (desk) or 415/760-9161 (cell)

Seventh annual environmental awards ceremony recognizes Neil Young

SAN FRANCISCO – Today U.S. EPA’s regional administrator Wayne Nastri presented awards to 11 Bay Area organizations and individuals for their efforts to protect and preserve the environment during 2004.

The Bay Area winners include Neil Young, a Santa Rosa detective and a Walnut Creek high school student, whose questions helped launch a national EPA investigation into the safety of commercial airline drinking water. The EPA honored the winners – listed below – at a ceremony this morning in San Francisco.

“The EPA applauds the outstanding achievements of these environmental heroes,” said Nastri. "Thanks to their efforts, our air, water and land will be cleaner and safer for generations to come.”

At today’s ceremony, the EPA presented awards to 37 businesses, government officials, tribes, environmental organizations and citizen activists from California, Arizona, Nevada and the Pacific Islands. The winners were selected from a pool of more than 175 nominees.

The Bay Area winners are listed below:

*Zach Bjornson-Hooper (currently attending Campolinda High School, Moraga) Zach Bjornson-Hooper, a then freshman at Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek and formerly a home-schooled student, is a seasoned flier who has traveled many places with his family. After watching a flight attendant pour water for passengers on a trip to New Zealand in 2002, the 13-year-old science prodigy raised questions that launched an investigation into the safety of airplane tap water. With his small thermal cooler packed with Petri dishes, filters, agar, vials and a syringe, Zach took samples of water from nine flights and found seven contaminated with E. coli, fecal coliform or salmonella. In one, he found insect eggs. The Wall Street Journal found similar findings in their investigation. Zach doesn't know why he likes science so much. Recently, Zach grew an E. coli colony in the refrigerator to explore the possibility of a micro fuel cell that would power a car. Zach hopes to study biotechnology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

*In 2004 Neil Young launched a month-long concert tour to complement the theatrical release of “Greendale.” Young fueled his trucks and buses with biodiesel, a cleaner burning, alternative fuel made from renewable resources. His tour used B20, 20 percent biodiesel mixed with 80 percent diesel, the most common blend. Additionally, Young has 17 diesel vehicles that run on vegetable oil farmed by American farmers. He plans to continue to use this government approved and regulated fuel exclusively to prove that it is possible to deliver goods anywhere in North America without using foreign oil, while being environmentally responsible.

*Since 1992 Santa Rosa Detective Mark Mahre has specialized in environmental crimes against auto body shops, dry cleaners, metal and plating shops, gas stations and even a water agency. Currently, Mark has a case pending against an auto dismantler. Along with his police work, Mark is also the President of the California Hazardous Materials Investigation Association. Mark does not play favorites; if you are illegally disposing of a hazardous waste, then you are breaking the law. He levels the playing field by ensuring that bad players are not making monetary gains when they fail to comply with environmental regulations. Mark worked closely with the Industrial Waste Inspectors, local district attorneys and others to bring felony charges against a plating shop for illegal discharge. His reputation for not being afraid to “dumpster dive” has surely led to more businesses of Santa Rosa handling their wastes properly. It takes a special police officer to commit to environmental work. Mark is that dedicated and talented officer of the law.

*Kemba Shakur founded Urban ReLeaf (Oakland) in 1998 to provide underserved urban communities of the East Bay with trees, environmental education and an awareness of ecological sustainability. In 2004, the organization planted 800 trees in Richmond, with the help of young people. From that effort grew a year-round on-the-job training program in tree planting and care. Thanks to a CALFED Watershed Research Grant, 600 trees were also planted annually throughout West Oakland from 2002-2005. Kemba has also helped at-risk teens hone their academic and computer skills by working on the tree projects, and started an Urban Forestry Program for elementary schools and day care centers. She has spread national awareness of urban forestry education, serving on the Alliance for Community Trees and the 7th American Congress, as well as co-chairing the Bay Area Urban Forestry Council.

*The U.S. Postal Service (Daly City), under the leadership of Ray Levinson, has developed one of the leading environmental energy management programs in the country. Ray's innovative efforts have enabled postal facilities to implement significant clean energy projects throughout the Pacific Area. In 2004 energy efficiency projects were implemented at 139 postal facilities in the Pacific region, which accounts for a reduction of 40 millions kilo-watts/hour annually, reducing 7,300 tons of Carbon Dioxide and 98 tons of Nitrogen Oxide. Postal Service distributed generation projects account for an additional reduction of 14 million kilo-watts/hour in utilities, 2,500 tons of Carbon Dioxide and 3 tons of Nitrogen Oxide annually. Additionally, the Postal Service has replaced chillers that will eliminate 1,700 pounds of ozone depleting substances. Using cutting-edge green technologies, the postal service has been able to reduce energy costs and replace conventional power generation with clean, efficient technologies. This program not only provides long-term benefits to the community and the environment, but is now being used as a model for other postal service areas.

*The San Francisco Community Power Cooperative, 1307 Evans Ave., San Francisco SF Power assists low-income families and small businesses reduce their electricity use as a means to lower utility bills. Since its inception in 2001, SF Power has saved 0.5 megawatts of electricity, enrolled nearly 2,000 businesses and residences and provided energy saving devices for even more. In 2004, SF Power purchased and distributed nearly $500,000 in energy-saving equipment to Bayview, Hunters Point and Potrero residences and businesses. Through collaborating with the Department of Energy, Smart Grocer Program, and the California Public Utility Commission they were able to leverage resources and call attention to Bayview, Hunters Point and Potrero communities. SF Power administered a job training program for Bayview-Hunters Point residents with a 70 percent graduation rate. Twelve graduates became energy efficiency auditors employed by SF Power as a part of their audit / installation programs.

*KIDS for the BAY (1771 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley) is dedicated to providing elementary school children in low-income areas with environmental education. Using inventive, hands-on techniques, the group promotes stewardship and restoration of local habitats, while also providing long-term, comprehensive experiential teacher training. KIDS for the BAY has educated Bay Area students on local watersheds, wetlands and creek restoration, pollution reduction and implemented environmental justice projects. By integrating environmental education into school curricula, examining local issues and providing a forum in which students meet and interview their elected officials, KIDS for the BAY not only ensures continued commitment to the environment, it empowers students to become educated, aware and involved members of the community.

*Bay Area Rapid Transit District is one of the largest transit authorities in the nation, with over 100 million riders annually. In partnership with the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, BART developed a construction and demolition waste reduction policy. BART developed specifications for environmentally-preferable purchasing, including EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines for recycled content products. BART was able to pilot test a new energy saver unit at their Hayward Station Parking Garage; the equipment cost $12,000 and decreased power consumption in the parking garage by 25 percent, an energy savings of 97,090 kilowatt hours per year. The success of their Sustainability Policy adopted by BART resulted in it's inclusion in the Facility Standard for all new BART garages.

*Cleaire Advanced Emission Controls, San Leandro, is a business dedicated to cleaning emissions from in-use diesel engines. In 2004, Cleaire has provided emission reduction systems for over 500 Bay Area transit buses, over 200 trash haulers, two Capital Corridor trains and the Blue and Gold Ferry. In carrying out their vision, Cleaire has developed, commercialized and successfully taken their emission control system to a broad market. Cleaire has received EPA and CARB verification for the system and has actively participated in the development of state and federal incentive programs to help reduce the cost of the system to diesel engine owners. Cleaire has successfully demonstrated that a company focused on environmental benefits can also operate as a viable commercial business.
*Maria Luz Torre of Parent Voices, 445 Church St., San Francisco, has been a community organizer for Parent Voices in San Francisco for almost ten years. In the last four years, she organized a team of parents of asthmatic children to work on policy changes to clean diesel emissions from about 250 school buses serving 10,000 children in the San Francisco Unified School District. Her team collaborated with agencies, the bus drivers' union, parent groups and community based organizations to incorporate language into the district's request for proposals requiring the next contractors to meet clean air standards. Through committees, hours of organizing parents and making sure “experts” were on hand to support them; Maria was successful in having the full School Board pass the resolution. Her Asthma Relief for Kids, or ARK, team is an example for other school districts. Maria Luz, her team, and others will continue to improve the lives of children through creative grassroots campaigns.

*The California Stormwater Quality Association of Menlo Park is a nationally recognized leader in stormwater quality management thanks to the California Stormwater Quality Association, a nonprofit organization formed in 1989 to implement the stormwater permit program in California. The association works on a variety of issues including public education, stormwater science, permitting and policy, legislation and watershed management. Participants include representatives from cities, counties, environmental groups, government, industry and consultants. The association provides comment letters to the state and EPA on important water quality issues, speakers for major conferences, and advisory committee representatives. It hosts four meetings a year, attended by over 300 stormwater professionals. Over the years, California municipalities have won a large number of national awards for excellence in stormwater management, attributable in no small measure to the outstanding work of the California Stormwater Quality Association.