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EPA Recognizes Seven From Connecticut With Environmental Merit Awards

Release Date: 04/22/04
Contact Information: Contact: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1014

For Immediate Release: April 22, 2004; Release # 04-04-32

BOSTON – At an Earth Day ceremony in Boston’s Faneuil Hall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England Office today recognized seven individuals and organizations from Connecticut with Environmental Merit Awards, including two lifetime achievement awards. The merit awards, given out since 1970, 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.

“These individuals, organizations and businesses deserve our thanks for their extraordinary contributions in protecting the environment,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England Office. “They have shown us that anyone can make a big difference, whether at work, at home, or in their neighborhood.”

The winners from Connecticut were among 34 from across New England. Awards were given in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization, as well as lifetime achievement awards for individuals.

Pictures of winners receiving their awards will be available from EPA. Call Carol Krasauskis at 617-918-1108.

Environmental Merit Award Winners from Connecticut are:
Lifetime Achievement: John E. Hibbard, Hebron, Conn.
John Hibbard is one of the true pillars of the Connecticut environmental community. For 37 years, he served as executive director of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA), the oldest environmental organization in Connecticut, and the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation, the largest grassroots conservation organization in the country. Hibbard has helped shape environmental laws in Connecticut from farmland preservation to water pollution control, and served on numerous statewide task forces and advisory boards relating to environmental protection. He also carried out the many ongoing programs of the CFPA, including educational programs on forestry and conservation and the maintenance of the 700-mile Blue Blazed Hiking Trail System. In addition to his work with the CFPA, he served as the first Chairman of the Hebron Conservation Commission, and on the Planning Zoning Commission, Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance. Even after his ‘retirement’ in 2000, he continues to serve on the Governor’s Natural Heritage, Open Space & Watershed Land Acquisition Review Board. His work can be seen every day in Connecticut, in the clear running streams and forest he helped protect, and in the environmentally friendly attitudes of people that he helped shape.

Lifetime Achievement: Julie D. Belaga Westport, Conn.
Julie Belaga has made a lasting contribution to environmental protection in Connecticut, New England and across the world. Belaga, a Westport resident, first became involved in environmental protection during her 10 years in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

During that time, she took the lead in writing Connecticut’s coastal area management law, served on the water supply task force and led the fight to assure safe drinking water across the state. She subsequently served as regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office and as an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She also completed a term as chief operating officer and board member for the U.S. Export-Import Bank, where she led efforts to increase financing for environmental projects and to set worldwide environmental standards for development projects. Belaga is now co-chair (and founding director) of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, and serves on the boards of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Audubon Connecticut, and Save the Sound, among other organizational involvements. She was honored in 2002 with the Housatonic Valley Association’s highest award.

Natalie Ketcham, First Selectman, Redding, Conn.
Natalie Ketcham’s vision and hard work on Redding, Conn’s behalf is leading to a cleaner, more livable community. Ketcham has worked tirelessly to transform a neglected area of the town’s Georgetown neighborhood. Through her efforts, the town expects to receive a major federal grant for street-scape improvements, including trees, pedestrian access, benches and decorative sidewalks. Ketcham also had a pivotal role in reducing the environmental impacts of a proposed new high-voltage power line that affects Redding and a 10-mile stretch of the Norwalk River watershed. Perhaps her most significant contribution is at the former Gilbert & Bennett mill site. Ketcham worked with EPA to ensure that environmental contamination at the abandoned mill was addressed in ways that facilitated redevelopment, including the selection of a developer and a public design process for reusing the site. As a result, the site will be built with Smart Growth principles that foster mixed development, a diverse population and walking and transit options for commuting.

Phil Apruzzese, CT Education Association, and Kenneth Foscue, CT Department of Public Health
Phil Apruzzese, vice president of the CT Education Association, and Kenneth Foscue, health educator at the CT Department of Public Health, have gone far beyond the call of duty in making Connecticut’s schools national models for improving indoor air quality. These two employees played key roles in leading the Connecticut School Indoor Environments Team, a consortium of 17 organizations dedicated to promoting healthy schools in Connecticut. Together they organized a hugely successful conference last fall, “Healthy Environments in Connecticut’s Schools.” The conference, the largest ever in New England, included 15 sessions and attracted more than 400 participants. Due to their efforts, Connecticut is the national leader in the number of schools implementing EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools program, and has more national EPA Tools for Schools Excellence Award winners than any other state. Apruzzese and Foscue have also taken their advocacy to a national level, speaking at national meetings about their experiences and encouraging others to take action.

Connecticut Parents United for a Lead Safe Environment, Hartford, Conn.
Connecticut Parents United for a Lead Safe Environment (CT PULSE) has been making a difference in reducing childhood lead poisoning in Hartford and surrounding communities. An affiliate of the Connecticut Citizen Research Group, PULSE’s mission is to educate community residents on the health effects of lead poisoning. The group has educated over 200 families about lead hazards and trained 15 members as technicians to test neighborhood homes. Lead testing results from 210 homes not only resulted in lead abatements at many of the homes, but brought new public attention to the severity of the problem across the state. Information from PULSE helped the CT Citizen Research Group receive a substantial federal grant which will be used to identify and abate lead hazards in Connecticut housing. The group continues to work for improved regulations and enforcement for lead-safe homes, and has inspired other organizations in Connecticut to begin sampling in their own communities.

New England Drinking Water Source Protection Coordinators
Lori Mathieu, Connecticut Department of Public Health

Over the last four years, the six New England state drinking water source protection coordinators have made tremendous contributions to the long-term safety and viability of drinking water for New England residents. Since 1999, the various state programs, working with local, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations, have completed over 2,500 source water assessments, identifying potential threats to drinking water from hundreds of municipal and private suppliers in New England. But they have also gone far beyond information gathering by launching creative new programs to ensure that drinking water threats do not materialize. Efforts include partnering with non-profit agencies and drinking water suppliers to protect source waters, drafting model land conservation easements with the New Hampshire Society for the Protection of Forests, starting land conservation programs to purchase critical land near drinking water sources and working with Maine’s George Mitchell Center to create a manual on source water protection for suppliers.

Related Information:
Environmental Merit