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EPA Celebrates Earth Day by Recognizing Seven from Vermont With Environmental Merit Awards

Release Date: 04/22/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BOSTON – In honor of Earth Day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England Office today recognized seven individuals and organizations from Vermont with Environmental Merit Awards. The 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.

"The individuals and groups we are honoring today are New England's real environmental heroes," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England Office. "Often with little fanfare, they have invested huge amounts of their time to make New England's environment cleaner and safer for future generations. We owe them all a huge debt of gratitude."

The winners from Vermont were among 40 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. Also, for the first time, special lifetime achievement awards were presented this year.

Winners from Vermont were:

Individual Awards

Rebecca Basch and Susan McMahon, VT
Rebecca Basch and Susan McMahon have pioneered Brownfields redevelopment in southern Vermont through their work as planners with the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission and the Windham Regional Commission, respectively. Both successfully applied for EPA Brownfields grants in 1999 and 2000, despite little prior experience with the subject. More importantly, they made their programs a success, by forming steering committees, identifying properties and hiring consultants to perform technical work. McMahon's program has 15 properties already assessed or undergoing assessment work, including the Bellows Falls Waypoint Interpretive Center which was assessed using EPA funding. The visitor center is currently under construction and when it is completed later this year it will be one of 10 centers along the NH/VT portion of the Connecticut River. Basch has 11 properties in her program, including the former Burnham property, an old dump in Windsor, VT which has been redeveloped to house an eight-person accounting firm. Their enthusiasm and effectiveness has encouraged other regional commissions to become interested in Brownfields development, with several regional planning commissions subsequently applying for and receiving EPA Brownfield grant

James M. Northup, Bristol, VT
As executive director of Forest Watch over the past four years, Northup revitalized the organization and enlarged its mission. Northup transformed Green Mountain Forest Watch, a small, struggling not-for-profit with a fairly narrow wilderness mission, into the larger Forest Watch, a financially sound, respected environmental organization. He has been a leader for and active participant in meetings that include divergent interests in national forest issues. He is an effective communicator who has authored many articles on forest related issues, stimulating both discussion and debate. A proposal to enlarge the designated wilderness areas of the Green Mountain National Forest has broad support and James Northrup has been a driving force behind this issue.

Eric Smeltzer, Waterbury, VT
Eric Smeltzer, state limnologist at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, is the primary author of an important report on reducing phosphorus pollution into Lake Champlain. The report, known as the Lake Champlain Phosphorus TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load), determines necessary cutbacks in phosphorus pollution in order for Lake Champlain to meet water quality standards by 2016. The report also identifies sources of the pollution that will have to reduce their loadings. Phosphorus pollution is harmful to water quality because it ‘fertilizes' the water, causing unwanted algal blooms and other vegetative growth which eventually causes oxygen depletion. A complex and challenging endeavor, the TMDL report provides a detailed, comprehensive phosphorus management plan for 60 Vermont wastewater treatment plants, 136 Vermont cities and towns and nearly half the land area of Vermont, as well as a portion of eastern New York. The report went through extensive public review before getting final approval from EPA, including two draft reports, 13 public information meetings and dialogue with over 400 parties. Smeltzer's career managing Vermont lakes spans more than two decades. His work has contributed tremendously to better understanding the water quality dynamics of the Lake Champlain Basin.


Alliance for Climate Action, 10 Percent Challenge Program, Burlington, VT
The 10 Percent Challenge is a creative grassroots public education program designed to help homeowners, businesses and public institutions achieve targeted greenhouse gas reductions in Burlington, VT. The voluntary program, sponsored by professionals through the three-year-old Alliance for Climate Action, was launched a year ago and continues to expand to more than 200 households and 40 Burlington area businesses. The goal of the alliance and its challenge program is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below 1997 levels by 2010. To achieve the goal, the alliance has invested significant efforts in developing a web-based emissions measurement tool, building institutional capacity and extensive outreach and public education. From bus signs and tip cards to Climo-Dino, the alliance's extinction consultant – the group's aim is to make the challenge easy and fun. Another goal of the alliance is to share the 10 Percent Challenge with other communities. Four communities in Chittenden County had similar resolutions on their town meeting ballots this spring and 85 communities are doing the same across the country.

Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT
Middlebury College has shown that an institution of higher learning can not only teach environmentally sound practices, but can also set an example. Middlebury has exhibited this leadership by championing the establishment and rapid growth of a certified wood industry in Vermont. Over the past five years, Middlebury has created demand by using nearly 200,000 board feet of green certified Vermont wood in campus construction projects, including previously under-utilized species like beech. Among the biggest highlights last year was launching an employee-owned woodworkers' cooperative, Island Pond Woodworkers, which is aiming for the niche market of environmentally-friendly Vermont furniture. Last September, the college awarded a $509,000 contract to the cooperative for custom designed and constructed study carrels for the new library. Other accomplishments: catalyzing institutional purchasing of green certified furniture from Vermont manufacturers and working with more than 60 certified small forest lot owners and businesses in Vermont to log and supply wood for campus projects.

Business and Industry

Target Corp./Target Stores, Minneapolis, MN - The Target Corp. has demonstrated how a large retail operation can make significant strides in environmental improvements and reducing waste. Recycling goals are set for each store based on sales amounts. Last year, company stores recycled over 270,000 tons of materials and additionally reduced waste through community salvage programs. In New England alone, Target's 27 stores last year recycled 6,766 tons of paper and cardboard. The company also recycles outdated computers, aluminum, cadmium, nickel, lead acid, aluminum and shrink-wrap (as well as glass and bottle recycling on a local level). Target also works with vendors to reduce product packaging. Nearly 100 percent of the clothing Target sells arrives without excess packaging and 95 percent of all shoes arrive without stuffing. Target also requests that overseas vendors ship goods in traditional corrugated cardboard, without rice paper, ensuring that boxes can be recycled. Target's Environmental Team is also active in national recycling and cleanup programs. Last year, more than 6,300 volunteers participated in the Keep America Beautiful Operation Clean Up America. The results of those efforts: 83 playgrounds cleaned and 26,000 flowers planted.