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EPA Presents Environmental Merit Awards to 16 in Massachusetts

Release Date: 04/22/1999
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON - Sixteen individuals and organizations from Massachusetts were honored today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their contributions to the environment.

The Massachusetts winners were among 39 recipients from around New England that received Environmental Merit Awards at an Earth Day ceremony at Faneuil Hall. The awards, given out since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts to preserve the environment. This year's competition drew more than 80 applications.

"Today we celebrate the efforts of a group of people who have gone above and beyond to make the air, water and land cleaner and safer for years to come," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England Administrator. "All those who received awards, as well as those who were nominated, stand as models for how each of us can make a difference in protecting our environment."

The 16 winners from Massachusetts were:

State Government David Struhs, former commissioner of the Massachusetts of Environmental Protection
Struhs' tenure at DEP was marked by innovation and creativity. Under Struhs's direction, the state's Environmental Results Program streamlined permitting procedures for thousands of facilities by encouraging a self-certification program that resulted in improved environmental compliance and increased pollution prevention. Struhs also spearheaded efforts to bring together local, state and federal resources on watershed-based initiatives to protect and restore the state's rivers, lakes, coastal waters and wetlands. Under his leadership, DEP also achieved an exemplary record on natural resource restoration and open space acquisition.

Maria Van Dusen and Anne Livingston, Massachusetts Urban Rivers Program
The state's Urban Rivers Program has made great strides in helping local communities restore and revitalize their urban rivers and riverfronts. The organization's advice, grants and help in finding other funding sources have resulted in new parks, greenways and river guides in communities from Somerville to Worcester to Lowell. Van Dusen and Livingston have helped build stronger community organizations and increased interest in waterways. Their participation in the Boston Urban Resources Partnership and their work with the Chelsea Creek Action group mobilized communities around the Chelsea Creek and Mill Creek.

Local Government Category
Pittsfield Mayor Gerry Doyle and City Council President Tom Hickey
Doyle and Hickey stood out among the dozens of public servants who worked hard during a year of negotiations that ended with an agreement between federal and state agencies, the City of Pittsfield and General Electric Co. that sets the course for the environmental and economic restoration of Pittsfield and southern Berkshire County. The agreement provides for substantial investments in the cleanup of the Housatonic River, the GE plant site and other contaminated properties. The agreement also will include investments in brownfields redevelopment in Pittsfield and compensation for natural resource damage. Doyle and Hickey were there every step of the way as tough, thoughtful negotiators. While working long hours, they made the health and economic well-being of the citizens of Pittsfield their number one priority.

Organization Category
Bikes Not Bombs, Roxbury

Carl Kurz founded Bikes Not Bombs (BNB) in 1984 to recycle bikes and train organizations to promote peaceful, environmentally conscious exchanges with Nicaragua. Since then, BNB has expanded to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Boston's inner city and has shipped more than 14,500 bikes. The organization provides training, jobs and transportation to the areas it serves. In Boston, BNB focused on Jackson Square, which has exceptionally high asthma rates. While the international work continues, BNB's focus in the last year has shifted to its bilingual Bicycle Recycling and Youth Training Center in Jackson Square, which works with youth and volunteers to create jobs and encourage alternative forms of transportation. The organization has also worked extensively with other Boston area groups to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled.

Building Materials Resource Center, Roxbury
Established in 1993, the BMRC is a building materials re-use project that accepts donations of good quality used and surplus building materials and distributes them for a modest handling fee to inner city homeowners and non-profit organizations for reuse. BMRC creates an economically attractive alternative to landfilling. In 1998 BMRC received about $1.5 million in donations from 230 homeowners and 27 companies. Donors earned valuable tax credits and saved on disposal fees, customers gained access to the materials they needed at prices they could afford and the environment benefitted from the recycle/reuse strategy.

Hilltop Anti-Herbicide Coalition, Ashland
Founded in 1998, this organization led and won a campaign against the Massachusetts Highway Department to halt the spraying of deadly herbicides along highways in 52 western Massachusetts towns. The year-long campaign involved a broad grassroots effort that brought 250 people from 27 towns to a public hearing with the Massachusetts Pesticide Board. HAHC organized a massive letter writing campaign and media blitz that focused public attention on the issue of herbicide spraying and its impacts on wetlands, waterways and watersheds. The organization called for a statewide vegetation management plan that did not rely on herbicides and state agencies have agreed to a one-year moratorium on spraying while they look into herbicide alternatives.

New Bedford Harbor Citizens Forum
The New Bedford Harbor Forum, made up of citizens, community groups, local and state officials, and state and federal environmental representatives, has focused on the safe and effective cleanup of the New Bedford Harbor Superfund site since it was formed in 1993. The forum was launched in an effort to reach consensus on the New Bedford Harbor cleanup after a total reversal in local support for on-site incineration of contaminated harbor sediments. Forum members were required to review and comment on numerous technical documents and proposals that evaluated different alternatives for cleaning up the harbor. They spent untold hours learning enough to discuss highly technical issues. After years of public debate, they reached consensus last year on how to clean the harbor. Representing various organizations and interests, the Forum showed how communities can be involved in decision-making at a difficult and complex Superfund site.

Stoughton Citizens Association, Stoughton
Formed as a neighborhood environmental watchdog organization in 1998 to monitor the permitting process of a hazardous waste recycling firm, the Stoughton Citizens Association was instrumental in getting the Massachusetts DEP to investigate the source of contamination in their neighborhood that caused the evacuation last Christmas of several families from their homes. The group has been successful getting the DEP to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the neighborhood contamination problems, including testing more than 100 private wells. The Association's concerted grass roots and media campaign helped to transform a low profile agenda item for state environmental regulators into a high profile action site.

Toxics Action Center, Boston
Since 1987, the Toxics Action Center has provided 225 grassroots organizations across Massachusetts and Connecticut with valuable resources. The organization provides community groups with legal advice, technical and public health expertise, and media relations training. The groups have won successful campaigns to close ailing trash-to-energy facilities in Merrimack Valley, to curtail the use of herbicides on Massachusetts rights of way, and focus attention on the contamination of residences in Stoughton. The Toxic Action Center has been successful in ensuring that the environmental issues of local communities are heard and get answered.

Theo Stein, The Berkshire Eagle

Theo Stein, a reporter with the Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, provided readers with exemplary coverage of one of the most significant environmental stories in the country. Stein's reporting on the complex issues surrounding PCB contamination in the Berkshires made the Eagle the true record of all aspects of this story, from economic brownfields redevelopment projects to the technical details of the proposed in-river clean-up projects. Stein's coverage has relied upon the usual tactics of the successful reporter: legwork, persistence, intelligence and judgment. Stein's exhaustive coverage, factual accuracy and clear writing embody the type of public service that the media often strive for and only rarely achieve.

Rachel Fletcher, Housatonic River Restoration Inc.

Fletcher's work along the Housatonic River has been the most important factor in the Berkshire community's growing physical and emotional "reconnection" to the river. Under Fletcher's leadership, a group of volunteers restored a degraded downtown riverbank in Great Barrington into the RiverWalk, a model urban river trail. The Housatonic River Restoration, Inc. was co-founded by Fletcher to give citizens a voice in determining the future life of the river. Over the past year, Fletcher has reached out to nearly 1,000 individuals and organizations in the Berkshires and kindled a "community ownership" concept for this natural resource.

H. Patricia Hynes, Dorchester Lead Safe Yard Project
Pat Hynes served as project manager for the Dorchester Lead Safe Yard Project, a project based in the community that provides personal assistance to low income families to measure the lead levels in their yards and to help them make simple, low-cost changes to reduce exposure of children to lead-contaminated soil. Hynes worked with several neighborhood organizations and EPA-New England in a project that used an innovative, portable lead monitor to measure the on-site amount of lead in the soil. Residents were taught the meaning of the high lead levels and the effects on children. These conversations were followed up by low cost remedial methods, such as moving gardens away from painted walls and covering high lead soil with protective stones. The project reached 50 contiguous residential yards in Boston and is being expanded locally and regionally.

Darby O'Brien , John Cronin and Robert Kennedy, Jr.
Two years ago, Darby O'Brien founded Fishing Buddies and began a grassroots campaign to open the City of Holyoke's drinking water reservoirs to recreational fishing. In 1998, two nationally known environmental leaders and activists - John Cronin, the Hudson Riverkeeper, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., co-director of Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic - joined the campaign. In September 1998, the city sponsored a one-day fishing derby for residents at the Whiting Street reservoir. Working with EPA, the state Division of Fish and Wildlife and others organizations, the "buddies" and their colleagues continue to advance a community policy to allow limited recreational use of the reservoirs. Fishing Buddies sponsors a local chapter of the national Fishing Tackle Loaner Program at the Holyoke Public Library for boys and girls who don't own fishing poles. They also solicit mentors for the Buddy System, which hooks kids up with volunteers to take them fishing.

John Shea, New England Governors Conference, Boston
Shea has been a strong champion of important environmental issues. He has spearheaded activities of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers on such issues as mercury, acid rain, and innovative environmental technologies. His skill in negotiating led 11 different jurisdictions in New England and Canada to sign the Regional Mercury Action Plan and the Acid Rain Action Plan. The mercury plan will lead to elimination of the anthropogenic mercury into the environment. Shea has also worked to promote renewable and environmentally sustainable energy technology in the context of utility deregulation and development of green power options for consumers.

James Stefanik, Chicopee Public School District, Chicopee
Stefanik, director of maintenance for Chicopee Public School District, advocates the use of EPA's voluntary environmental standard of care for schools in Chicopee Public Schools and schools throughout New England. The commitment and sincerely Stefanik brings to his presentations have won him accolades from many schools where he has introduced EPA's Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kits. As a school official, Stefanik knows first hand what schools confront in trying to adopt a voluntary federal guide, and his work with Chicopee schools gained national recognition when Chicopee became the nation's first school district to implement Tools for Schools.

Joseph Kennedy, Representative, House of Congress, MA 8th District, 1986-1998
Joe Kennedy represented the people of Eighth Congressional district for six terms. He spent much of his time fighting proposals to reduce spending for social programs and to roll back government regulations, including attempts to relax the Clean Water Act and other environmental programs. He worked to reform flood insurance, sponsored indoor air quality standards and the federal funding of bicycle paths. His most prominent legislative effort was to end Aredlining," a long-standing practice of banks and insurance companies to refuse to do business in low-income communities. In January, Kennedy returned to Citizens Energy Corporation, a nonprofit organization he founded in 1979 to provide heating assistance to the poor.