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Rhode Island Citizens Receive Prestigious Regional EPA Environmental Awards

Release Date: 04/25/2012
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – April 25, 2012) - Four Rhode Island citizens and a hospital from the Ocean State will be honored today in Boston’s Faneuil Hall as EPA presented its annual Environmental Merit Awards for 2012.

The merit awards, recognizing valuable contributions to environmental awareness and problem solving, are a unique way that EPA can recognize individuals and groups that are making significant impacts on environmental quality in distinct ways.

Awarded by EPA since 1970, the merit awards 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.

Awards were given in the following categories: individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Each year, EPA also may present lifetime achievement awards for individuals.

"Congratulations to all of our 2012 Environmental Merit Award recipients. These awards are close to my heart because they acknowledge the importance of environmental stewardship, said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. "As stewards, all of these recipients are making real and lasting differences in communities across our beautiful region. Whether it's finding innovative ways to safeguard our water resources or conserving the energy our communities use each day, each individual has advanced our mission to protect human health and the environment."

More information on all Environmental Merit Award Winners from this year and past years is available at:

The Environmental Merit Award Winners from Rhode Island are:

Lifetime Achievement Environmental Merit Award:

Nancy L. Langrall
Nancy Langrall, senior policy advisor for US Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island since Senator Reed was elected in 1991, has a long history of executive management. As Reed’s senior policy advisor, Nancy directs his issues management program and monitors local, state and federal initiatives that impact legislation, regulatory change, and funding. As policy advisor for Sen. Reed, who chairs the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, Nancy Langrall has made environmental affairs a top priority in the Senator’s Office. Improving environmental health in Rhode Island is paramount to the prosperity of the State. Nancy carries that sentiment with her while executing the day to day affairs in the Senator’s office. Nancy Langrall has long shown her dedication and capabilities in helping support and expand the work of Rhode Island’s environmental community. She has, time and time again, brought the resources of Senator Reed’s office to bear to effectively improve the quality of life in our communities and to help protect and restore Narragansett Bay and all the state’s natural resources.  Her collaborative mentality serves Rhode Island well, and we are happy to see such a strong environmental presence in the Ocean State. Before working for Sen. Reed, Nancy was public policy and external relations manager for Fleet/Norstar Financial Group and administrator to the Fleet/Charitable Trust. There, she began programs in government relations, corporate communications, and corporate giving. While Fleet/Norstar merged and acquired other subsidiaries, she expanded the trust’s planned giving strategies into 34 states as assets grew from $5 million to $30 million. Before joining Fleet/Norstar, Nancy was the first woman to be chief of staff to the Rhode Island Senate.

Peter Lord (posthumous)
 As a long-time environmental reporter for The Providence Journal, Peter Lord illuminated not only local concerns, but also gave context to national and international environmental topics that affect our lives. Over several decades as a reporter, Peter, who died this year at the age of 60, helped teach generations of Rhode Islanders about the importance of preserving Block Island, the risks to children’s health posed by lead paint, and scores of other environmental subjects. He mentored many younger journalists to aspire to his curiosity, his integrity and his keen writing style. A long-time Rhode Island resident, Peter was fair minded in approaching complicated issues, and he posed the right questions to get to the core of the story he was writing. Peter was an award-winning journalist whose stories took him as far as Central America and the Arctic Circle. Peter joined The Journal as a reporter in 1979 and was assigned to the environmental beat in 1981. Over the next 30 years he earned a national reputation for his reporting. He was a board member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and journalism director of the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Journalism at the University of Rhode Island, where he also taught journalism courses. Lord, a resident of Matunuck, was a 1973 graduate of the University of Connecticut, and worked as a reporter at The Day in New London before coming to The Journal.

Individual Environmental Merit Award

Greg Gerritt
Environment Council of Rhode Island, Providence, R.I.

Greg has devoted his life to protecting and promoting natural ecosystems. More than forty years ago, he organized his high school to celebrate the first Earth Day in New York City, and since then he has worked in a number of different organizations to promote the greening of America. Before embarking on full time political and activist work, Greg ran a carpentry business and built a solar powered homestead. He has been a leading advocate for ensuring that ecology is a component of efforts to create a sustainable state economy. In his role at the Environment Council of Rhode Island, Greg organizes events, talking to school groups, helping to connect the various threads of the environmental community and fostering the development of the next generation of environmental activists and organizations - with a focus on environmental justice. One of Greg’s greatest passions is composting, and he has been working tirelessly to increase the composting infrastructure in Rhode Island. Three years ago, he organized the first composting workshop in Providence for about 60 people under the auspices of Rhode Island’s Urban Agriculture Task Force. The third annual Compost Conference and Trade Show was held this February. More than 250 attendees heard the call to action to divert organic waste from the Johnston landfill through a compost collection and processing program - on any scale. In addition, Greg runs a consulting practice called Prosperity for Rhode Island, which connects the healing ecosystems and prosperity in New England communities.

John Torgan
The Nature Conservancy, Rhode Island Chapter
John Torgan began as director of ocean and coastal conservation at the Rhode Island chapter of the Nature Conservancy in 2011, after 18 years at Save the Bay serving as Baykeeper for Narrangansett Bay. A leading environmental advocate and trusted voice for Rhode Island’s waters, John is a native Rhode Islander who grew up spending summers on the South County coast, working on charter fishing boats and on Block Island. He earned an undergraduate degree in environmental studies/biology at Union College in New York. Before returning to Rhode Island, John worked for a consulting firm working on rivers in Upstate New York and Michigan. John joined Save the Bay in 1993 and became Narragansett Baykeeper in 1994, becoming one of the nation’s first and longest-serving Waterkeepers in what is now a global organization of more than 200 programs. As Baykeeper, John advocated for clean water and communicated the importance of Rhode Island’s waters to broad audiences and policy makers. During his tenure, an oil-barge tragedy spurred Save the Bay to lead a successful drive to toughen state oil-shipping laws. John also waged a campaign to force the Brayton Point Power Station to minimize its impact on Mount Hope Bay. He advocated for combined sewer-overflow improvements to reduce raw sewage from being dumped into the bay during heavy rains. And he fought efforts to create a deep-water port at Quonset Point and a liquefied natural gas terminal in Fall River. Despite being Baykeeper, John sought to broaden the agency’s focus to include inland rivers, the ocean and coastal waters. At the Nature Conservancy, he continues to work to protect and restore the ecological health of the state’s waters and to integrate these efforts across the regional ecosystem.

Business, Industry, Trade or Professional Environmental Merit Award

Kent Hospital, Warwick, RI
Joseph DiPietro, Thomas Benjamin

Last year, the EPA New England assistance group started looking for hospitals that had examples of rain gardens and other sustainable landscaping. EPA found two New England hospitals that were not only early adopters of sustainable landscaping in a healthcare setting, but had both worked with EPA to promote sustainable landscaping at other New England hospitals. Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island and Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut, gave freely of their time and expertise over the last year, educating hospitals on how to design gardens while also managing stormwater through sustainable landscaping practices. To address stormwater runoff in New England, Kent Hospital and Greenwich Hospital developed healing rain gardens. These natural landscapes help reduce pollution from stormwater while connecting patients to a healthy environment. The leadership of these providers in developing dynamic green solutions is an example of how sustainability reaches every corner of our society. These hospitals have proven to be leaders in healing garden development. They organize tours, present at conferences and reach the larger public through media programs. The early adoption of sustainable landscaping is a practical solution to satisfy stormwater compliance issues, LEED certification standards and outdoor aesthetics. These hospitals have strengthened their regional identities as healthcare providers through low impact design and innovative leadership.

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