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U.S. EPA Honors 19 Northern California Environmental Heroes

Release Date: 04/16/2009
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, 415 947 4248,

40 groups and individuals recognized for outstanding achievement in protecting the environment

SAN FRANCISCO -- During the agency's 11th annual Environmental Awards Ceremony in San Francisco today, U.S. EPA acting Regional Administrator Laura Yoshii recognized 19 Northern California organizations and individuals in recognition of their efforts to protect and preserve the environment in 2008.
“It is a great pleasure and honor that we can recognize the innovative and important environmental work achieved by this year’s impressive group of organizations and individuals, and the example they set for all of us to follow,” Yoshii said. “This year's winners and nominees have made superb efforts to protect and preserve our air, water and land, and increased awareness of the environmental challenges we all face.”

The Pacific Southwest’s Environmental Awards program acknowledges commitment and significant contributions to the environment in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Pacific Islands and tribal lands. Forty groups and individuals were selected from over 200 nominees received this year from businesses, local, government officials, tribes, media, environmental organizations and community activists.

The Northern California winners are:

Cascade Sierra Solutions
Cascade Sierra Solutions, a non-profit organization founded in 2006, is dedicated to reducing emissions and fuel consumption from heavy-duty diesel trucks. Since diesel trucks are responsible for 10 percent of our country’s petroleum consumption and six percent of greenhouse gas emissions, their work benefits communities, particularly children and the elderly, along transportation corridors. This organization promotes, finances and installs the EPA’s SmartWay technology packages that reduce idling and fuel exhaust. They also replace old, dirty polluting vehicles with new, clean ones. They have retrofitted over 1,600 trucks. To date, Cascade Sierra Solutions has reduced over 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, 279 metric tons of nitrogen oxide and six metric tons of particulate matter -- the deadliest outdoor air pollutant in the United States.

Environmental Law and Justice Clinic
Golden Gate University School of Law
San Francisco

The Environmental Law & Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law is an inspiring model of collaborative work with community partners. The clinic combines social justice advocacy, direct service in legal and technical areas, and student education to address environmental problems in low-income communities, communities of color and those facing language-access barriers. The clinic has participated in important legal advocacy for underserved communities, in areas such as greenhouse gas regulation, renewable energy projects, and the disproportionate and cumulative impacts of air pollution.

Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District
Lisa Hulette, Executive Director
The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District’s agricultural program works with small family farms to promote effective watershed management practices. Working with farms in Sonoma County’s Estero Americano and Salmon Creek Watersheds, the district has provided training, technical expertise and over $6 million in watershed management projects. The district and its partners, including the agricultural community, were able to set goals and develop actions plans to reduce nutrient and sediment loadings in both watersheds. Over 80 percent of landowners participate in both watersheds. From this crucial partnership, family farms in western Sonoma County are on the path toward environmental and economic sustainability.

Green Plumbers
GreenPlumbers is an innovative, national training and accreditation program that helps plumbers understand their role in protecting the environment and public health. The organization’s goal is to change consumer behavior by training plumbers to promote use of water saving technologies and energy efficiency. By teaching “an army of plumbers” about the connection between water and energy, about alternative means of heating water in the home, about water-efficient technologies, and about how to evaluate a household’s water use, GreenPlumbers is educating thousands of consumers on how to conserve and use water and energy more efficiently -- reducing bills and carbon footprints.

Acterra: Action for a Sustainable Earth
Palo Alto
Acterra: Action for a Sustainable Earth brings people together to create local solutions for a healthy planet. Its solution-oriented programs and projects provide youth and adults with hands-on opportunities to learn, get involved and improve the environment. The organization trains 30 adults annually on projects that include: a Carbon Reduction Campaign to combat climate change, a Green@Home campaign that provides free home energy audits on the San Francisco peninsula, and an “Act Green” campaign that educates groups about global warming and actions they can take to reduce their carbon footprints. The organization’s Low Carbon Diet workshops provide participants with the opportunity to measure their carbon emissions to start personal carbon reduction strategies. And Acterra’s Stewardship Program offers several thousand youth and adults annually many opportunities to restore local ecosystems. Acterra’s initiatives help ordinary people do extraordinary things.

Elkhorn Slough Foundation
Moss Landing

The Elkhorn Slough Foundation has led more than 25 years of successful conservation and restoration efforts at Elkhorn Slough on Monterey Bay. The slough is one of California’s most significant estuaries, and has been named by Audubon as a “Globally Important Bird Area”. The foundation has raised tens of millions of dollars to protect and manage nearly 4,000 acres of key lands in the watershed, restored hundreds of acres of coastal and estuarine habitats, and worked with local farmers to demonstrate and adopt practices that conserve water and prevent erosion on hundreds of acres adjacent to the slough. It has trained hundreds of volunteers, has ongoing research programs, started a schools program, and created a curriculum used by several hundred thousand K-12 students visiting the slough.

The Pharos Project - Healthy Building Network
The Healthy Building Network is the leading organization advocating for health-based green building standards. Its mission is to transform the market for building materials --more than three billion tons per year -- in order to advance best environmental, health and social practices. In 2008, the network worked with partners, architecture firms and health care systems in the Pacific Southwest to develop the Pharos Project - a revolutionary on-line tool for evaluating and comparing the health, environmental and social impacts of building materials in a comprehensive and transparent way. The Pharos Project is re-defining green labeling practices and establishing an evaluation method that is in line with environmental health and justice principles. The Healthy Building Network has been a regional leader by partnering with ground-breaking environmental health initiatives in the public and private sector.

Kaiser Permanente
Recognizing that healthy communities and a healthy environment are critical to health and wellness, Kaiser Permanente has shown dedication to sustainability and environmental justice. For example, in an effort to reduce car trips to shops and increase access to locally grown produce, Kaiser hosted 28 farmers markets at its facilities in six states. In addition, its newly deployed laptop and desktop computers and monitors received at least a silver-rating by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). Its newly opened medical center in Modesto, California features solar panels, energy-conserving technology, permeable pavement, and safer materials. The hospital’s electronic health record system also reduces the need for paper records. Also, in replacing its San Leandro, California hospital, construction crews recycled 100 percent of the building materials generated during demolition of two warehouses. Kaiser Permanente has shown a true commitment to environmental stewardship.

Heather Cooley, Juliet Christian-Smith, Peter H. Gleick
Pacific Institute
California’s greatest ongoing resource struggle has been over water supplies. Agriculture is by far the largest user, and the debate has largely focused on massive, costly, environmentally damaging infrastructure like dams, canals, and pumps. Today, it’s even more urgent to find solutions in the face of recurring drought, expanding population, and the Delta fisheries collapse. A recent report by the Pacific Institute’s Heather Cooley, Juliet Christian-Smith, and Peter Gleick found that cost-effective, environmentally-friendly water management strategies already being used by some farmers could eliminate the need for 3-20 new dams. Their work has altered how we approach California’s water crisis. The authors brought together traditionally opposed interest groups, helping farmers, irrigation district managers, policy makers, and state agencies forge a consensus on agricultural water conservation recommendations in the Delta Vision Committee Implementation Report.

Gregg Erickson
California Department of Transportation, Division of Environmental Analysis
Caltrans Chief Biologist Gregg Erickson has developed innovative assessment tools that identify environmental impacts of highway projects. These tools allow regulatory agencies to identify land or easement acquisition opportunities earlier, which increases flexibility and lowering costs. This approach brings together multiple stakeholders and considers additive impacts of highway projects on biodiversity. Erickson’s approach is a model government initiative that better protects biodiversity while accelerating project completion and lowering costs.

Katharine Noonan
Science Teacher & co-director of Environmental Science Academy
Oakland High School
Katharine Noonan is one of those unique teachers who knows that science cannot be learned solely through a textbook and in a classroom. As co-director of the Environmental Sciences Academy at Oakland High School, she goes out of her way to provide field trips for her students and educate them through hands-on experiences outside the classroom. With her students, she conducts long-term water quality monitoring of Lake Merritt. Her students study environmental pressures from natural and anthropogenic sources, and integrate scientific tools with public communication.

Paula Allen
United Indian Health Services
Paula Allen, a Traditional Resource Specialist for United Indian Health Services, is being honored for her role in the design of the Potawot Health Village and her role in ensuring that cultural values, sustainability and stewardship were incorporated. More than just a medical building, the 40-acre Potawot Health Village promotes American Indian culture through programs integrating traditional knowledge with human and environmental health. Allen’s assistance in designing the facility restored and conserved local resources. Notable green building features and sustainable land-use practices include the construction of wetlands and on-site storm water treatment. Solar panels provide 25 percent of Potawot's energy needs, saving $2,000-$3,000 per month, which go toward educational programs and outreach. The food garden produces top-quality produce, allowing the community to be connected to their food and provides hands-on nutritional experience.

Patrick Langsjoen
United States Postal Service
Environmental Policy and Programs
San Francisco
It is through the efforts of people like Patrick Langsjoen that the United States Postal Service meets environmental commitments. Langsjoen, in his role as the Recycling Program Manager for Northern California, helped establish recycling programs at 365 facilities that now recycle more than 12,000 tons per year -- generating $200,000 in revenue. In 2008, Langsjoen’s leadership facilitated the transition from the use of lead-free wheel weights for the Pacific area's 31,000 delivery fleet. Langsjoen’s work reduced workplace lead exposure by 5.5 tons and eliminated a quarter ton of lead from entering the environment each year. This initiative served as the catalyst for the decision to transition the entire 215,000 delivery fleet vehicles to lead-free wheel weights, eliminating 37 tons of lead from entering the environment annually.

Charles Barnard
United States Air Force
Travis Air Force Base
Charles H. Barnard, an Aircraft Structural Repair Technician for the Travis Air Force Base, distinguished himself by meritorious service, taking on the additional duty as Squadron Environmental Representative and Environmental Inspector, despite no change in pay. Described as one of the “most dedicated workers…always striving to improve environmental compliance,” Barnard aims to go beyond compliance. Through Barnard’s innovative thinking, procedural changes have reduced environmental impacts.

Steve Ritchie
California Coastal Conservancy
Since 2004, Steve Ritchie has led the restoration planning effort for the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. Roughly the size of Manhattan, the 15,100 acres of former commercial salt ponds in South San Francisco Bay are the largest wetland restoration effort ever undertaken in the western United States. Earlier urbanization caused the loss of 85 to 90 percent of the tidal marsh in the San Francisco Bay, which has led to the dramatic loss of fish and wildlife, decreased water quality and increased turbidity. Ritchie has successfully represented the interests of government agencies, along with private organizations and individuals, to complete a complicated Environmental Impact Statement. Today, Ritchie’s attention is focused on implementing the first phase of this vital restoration project.

Sewer Science
California Water Environment Association, City of Palo Alto, South Bayside System Authority, Central Contra Costa Sanitation District, City of Los Angeles, City of San Diego
Sewer Science is a high school science laboratory that teaches students about wastewater treatment using specially designed tanks and standard testing equipment. The lab was developed in 1998 through a collaboration of San Jose State University, the city of Palo Alto, and 13 high school science teachers from seven high schools. The curriculum materials integrate science, math, and technology while addressing treated wastewater discharge and its effects on receiving waters. The award-winning program is used in numerous California school districts, reaching students throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles metropolitan area and San Diego County. “Sewer Science” addresses the challenges of hands-on interdisciplinary learning while providing a unique high school outreach program.

The Moscone Center
San Francisco
Sustainable practices are at the heart of SMG’s management of the 2-million square-foot Moscone Center -- San Francisco’s major convention complex. The center’s roof top solar installation generates enough energy to power more than 600 homes. Its ten-year-old recycling program includes composting of food and serveware. The center has a system for collecting and recycling toxic materials, purchasing environmental products, and a green cleaning program. A full-time air quality technician monitors and tests indoor air quality. The center also promotes water efficiency through drought resistant plants, drip irrigation, and water-saving bathrooms, as well as encouraging public transportation to its events. The Moscone Center promotes and supports business practices that minimize environmental impact, benefit the local community and make economic sense.

New Resource Bank
San Francisco
New Resource Bank is a pioneer in green community financing -- providing desirable loans to companies with environmental goals -- and is the first bank in California to have a LEED-Gold rating. It negotiates desirable funding strategies for community-based projects built to U.S. Green Building Council standards by providing a 1/8th percent discount on loans for green leadership. The Bank also has a lending program that makes solar panels available to the average homeowner without a down payment. In addition, the bank works internally to reduce energy consumption and waste within its building and business. In this time of economic instability, New Resource Bank is demonstrating the economic longevity of sustainable ventures.

Vetrazzo, LLC
The Vetrazzo company uses 100 percent discarded, recycled glass to produce 5 foot by 9 foot panels of glass, which are used for stunning glass countertops, now seen at the Ritz Carlton, National Park Service, and Microsoft Headquarters. Invented in 1996, Vetrazzo employs a process that transforms recycled glass from traffic lights, windshields, plate glass windows, dinnerware, laboratory glass, beverage bottles and stained glass into a functionally superior green building material. The technique saves energy, as the glass is processed from the recycler without melting. Since 2007, Vetrazzo has produced beautiful, functional surfaces, and saved energy equal to removing more than 2,200 passenger cars from the road for one year.

For the complete list of winners, visit: Beginning today and throughout the coming weeks, a series of blogs will feature several of the winners at: