Vermont Organizations and Residents Recognized by EPA for Environmental Achievements

By Newsroom America Feeds at 10 May 2016

News Release
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
New England Regional Office
May 10, 2016

Contact: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

Vermont Organizations and Residents Recognized by EPA for Environmental Achievements

BOSTON – Seven winners from Vermont were recognized today at the 2016 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s New England regional office. The environmental leaders were among three dozen recipients across New England honored for helping to improve New England’s environment.

Each year EPA New England recognizes individuals and groups in the six New England states who have worked to protect or improve the region’s environment in distinct ways. The merit awards, given out since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts.

“We are proud to honor those citizens, businesses and organizations who have gone the extra mile to help protect and preserve our region’s natural resources,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “These New England award winners are committed to making our towns, cities and countryside of New England healthy, vibrant places with clean air, land and water.”

The Environmental Merit Awards, which are given to people who have already taken action, are awarded in the categories of individual; business (including professional organizations); local, state or federal government; and environmental, community, academia or nonprofit organization. Also, each year EPA presents lifetime achievement awards for individuals.

Merit Award Winners from Vermont listed by category are:

Lifetime

Eric Smeltzer
During his 35 years at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Eric Smeltzer made many major and lasting contributions to lake restoration and protection in Vermont. As State limnologist – one who studies inland waters – Smeltzer served as Vermont’s top lake scientist, guiding lake management strategies, conducting numerous lake studies and modeling analyses, mentoring young lake scientists, and advising governors, legislators, and other policy makers on lake science and lake restoration.

Throughout his career with the DEC, Smeltzer was widely respected for his scientific expertise, patient and professional public presentations on controversial and complex topics, clear writing, and consistent, science-based advocacy for lake protection and restoration.

Restoration of Lake Champlain was a major focus of his career. In collaboration with colleagues from New York State, Smeltzer initiated the long-term lake monitoring program that has generated an immensely valuable record of biological, chemical, and physical parameters across the lake’s diverse segments and tributaries. This record has allowed for important analyses of water quality trends over the last two decades. Smeltzer also spearheaded the adoption of consistent water quality standards by the governments of New York, Quebec and Vermont for each of the lake’s 13 segments. Smeltzer’s most monumental contribution to Lake Champlain was arguably his development and application of the lake water quality model used in establishing phosphorus reduction targets in lake clean-up plans. Building on the modeling results, Smeltzer guided DEC’s development of the initial Lake Champlain Total Maximum Daily Loads in 2002, and then, from 2011-2015, provided technical support to EPA in developing the 2016 update. While restoration of Lake Champlain remains a major challenge, Smeltzer built a foundation that will guide lake restoration work into the future. Smeltzer served with distinction on various tech¬nical advisory committees and lake management task forces. His scientific reports and articles will inform future generations of lake scientists and managers. Smeltzer’s strong environmental ethic also extends to his personal life. He and his family have lived “off the grid” for three decades, using on-site wind and hydro power to provide energy to their Vermont home.

Individual

Steve Simoes
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation

Steve Simoes has worked for the hazardous waste program in the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation for more than 25 years. In this position, Simoes has shown an unwavering commitment to environmental protection as he carries out the regulations of the Vermont Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. His attention to the issues and his experience in the program have allowed Simoes to provide creative solutions to hazardous waste hurdles in Vermont and through¬out New England.

Known as the principle drafter of the state’s hazardous waste regulations, Simoes’ thorough understanding of law and program allowed him to develop clear and effective regulations and to unravel complexities in order to realize the ultimate aim: environmental protection.

Simoes has been recognized for his work on enforcement cases and enforcement policies, as he understands that laws must be enforceable, and enforced reasonably. He has brought many important actions that have resulted not just in compliance and fines, but also in environmental improvements. His input is sought regularly and he is generous with his time and knowledge. His collaboration across agencies has been a model for state-federal partnerships. As a critical member of multi-agency teams, Simoes has pushed forward best practices for both regulators and the regulated.

In addition to his work maintaining the hazardous waste program, Simoes has shared his passion and knowledge nationally. An unfailing commitment to a safe environment through results and practicality truly is the hallmark of Steve Simoes’ career.

Laura Hill
University Of Vermont, Burlington

Today’s students need an understanding of sustain¬ability issues so they can be part of a future that work toward environmental solutions. The University of Vermont is one of the few major research institutions that requires all undergraduates to meet a sustainability requirement as part of their general education. Laura Hill, a lecturer and research associate in plant biology, provided key leadership in getting this requirement through the faculty senate. Known as modest and quietly charismatic, Hill shares credit with the committee she co-chairs which both developed the sustainability requirement and reviews for approval courses that may meet that requirement. As the voice of the committee, Hill gave a compelling presentation to the faculty senate that won over critics in engineering, health sciences, and teacher education, and ultimately gained their approval.

Hill says her teaching goal for intro biology and plant biology classes “is to make science a tangible and exciting topic.” She succeeds by sharing her passion and using a variety of techniques to engage and enthuse students. A former student who nominated Hill for a UVM teaching award that she ultimately won said “there is such potential in her vision of what teaching can be, fueled by so much creativity and hard work.” Hill has shared her skills with faculty through workshops and on Vermont Public Radio. She also has shared her agricultural research on the future of cold-hardy plant varieties through a television interview, workshops and peer-reviewed publications.

Business, Industry, Trade or Professional

Global Foundries
Chemical Mechanical Polish and Integration Team
Essex Junction, Vermont

Global Foundries, manufacturer of semiconductor chips for global telecommunications and consumer electronics, made changes to its operations that resulted in less waste, lower costs and more environmental protection. The Chemical Mechanical Polish and Integration Team reduced the company’s overall environmental impact and improved its efficiency by separating two integrated steps in the chemical mechanical polish operation, which is a physical grinding process. In the past both steps were done together with the same equipment in an integrated process. In separating the two steps, the team also removed an unnecessary part of the process to ultimately reduce the overall nitrate usage. This project saved $90K per year in chemicals and increased performance stability, which prevented scrap losses amounting to $480K annually. By increasing performance stability and reducing waste, the team saved the company $660,000 a year.

Governmental

State of Vermont Lake Champlain TMDLTeam
Vt. Department of Environmental Conservation - David Mears; Alyssa Schuren; Pete LaFlamme; Mary Borg; Kari Dolan; Padraic Monks; Eric Smeltzer; Marli Rupe. Vt. Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets - Chuck Ross; Jim Leland; Laura DiPietro. Vt. Agency of Transportation - Chris Cole; Gina Campoli; Craig Digiammarino

A 2011 lawsuit left EPA responsible for creating a plan to reduce phosphorus in Lake Champlain by 34 percent. The challenge was daunting. At EPA New England, we knew that to succeed we needed help from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. Fortunately, these agencies were up to the challenge. Vermont adopted a sweeping plan that involved stabilizing stream banks and working with farmers, towns and foresters.

This award is going to three agencies and 14 affiliated individuals who were central to the success of this effort. Together the group formed the Vermont Lake Champlain TMDL Team.
Then newly appointed DEC Commissioner David Mears and Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross knew Lake Champlain is critical to Vermont’s environmental, economic and cultural well-being. They were vocal leaders at the political and policy level, spending countless days with stakeholders and working with the state legislature. Mears successfully engaged the Vermont Agency of Transportation to take part in the solution. And when he left state government, his successor, Alyssa Schuren, stepped right in.

Eric Smeltzer, Pete LaFlamme, Mary Borg, Kari Dolan, Padraic Monks and Marli Rupe led DEC’s effort, helping EPA develop the Total Maximum Daily Load limits or TMDLs, and then created state programs needed to put the plan in place. Smeltzer’s career-long experience with the dynamics and role of phosphorus in Lake Champlain was invaluable. LaFlamme, Borg, Rupe and Monks brought experience with the DEC’s tools to help improve programs and create new programs. Dolan’s experience leading DEC’s ecosystem restoration program and her outreach efforts were invaluable.

At the Agency of Agriculture, Jim Leyland and Laura DiPietro led the effort, reaching out to farmers and developing programs to address runoff from farms. Finally the Agency of Transportation team of Chris Cole, Gina Campoli and Craig DiGiammarino was instrumental in reducing the phosphorus contribution from state roads. With DEC, they developed the idea for a system-wide permit for highways.

The Vermont team made it possible for EPA to develop a plan for limiting phosphorus as well as a comprehensive state plan to put the daily limit in place. Widespread support for this plan was obvious when the governor made recovery of Lake Champlain a central issue in his 2015 inaugural address and the General Assembly passed a Clean Water Bill that authorizes the new and revised programs and includes $5 million over three years and 20 new staff to support the plan.

Food Waste Management Prevention
Vt. Department of Environmental Conservation
- Cathy Jamieson
Mass. Department of Environmental Protection - John Fischer
Conn. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection - Chris Nelson

Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut are national leaders in state policies to recover food and manage food scraps and waste. In 2014, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut passed laws limiting food waste sent to landfills. Each law restricts the amount of waste coming from businesses, grocery stores, hospitality, colleges, universities, hospitals and food processors. The first goal of all three states is to increase awareness of food waste and to increase the amount of food being recycled or composted. The bans are now one year in, and these three New England states have reduced food going to landfills. The Vermont Food Bank has seen donations of surplus food increase 24 percent. Massachusetts has seen a significant jump in technical assistance requests for diversion. Recently Rhode Island enacted an organics ban modeled after these three states.

A map done by all three states showing food waste became a model for a national EPA map on wasted food. In addition, Massachusetts set up a model technical assistance program dedicated to working with businesses on food recovery and management. New England and its creative state policies, led by Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont, clearly is a leader in food recovery.

State Performance Partnership Improvement Team
NH Department of Environmental Services
- Susan Carlson; Vincent Perelli; Ted Diers; Wendy Waskin; John Duclos;

Maine Department of Environmental Protection - Jeff Crawford; RI Department of Environmental Management - Terry Gray;

Vt. Department of Environmental Conservation - Carey Hengstenberg;

Conn. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection - Nicole Lugli;

Mass. Department of Environmental Protection - Deneen Simpson

The State Performance Partnership Improvement Team made the concept of E-Enterprise a reality. The team used 21st century tools to streamline work plan negotiations and ultimately strengthen oversight and management of the Performance Partnership Grant progress for New England state partners. The work of the team, consisting of representatives from six states, showed that waste can be eliminated, processes streamlined and budget shortfalls tackled through partnerships and on-line cooperation.

With declining funding from EPA over the past few years, New England states needed to address budget shortfalls for environmental efforts. A request by the state of New Hampshire for help in eliminating waste through “lean” processes led to improvements and efficiencies in environmental work across New England. Ideas were generated through the “lean” events that could benefit other states. The State Performance Partnership Improvement Team seized the chance to implement changes in 2015.

Vincent Perelli of the NH Department of Environmental Services was a leader in convening all six New England states to commit to trying this new approach. The state partners worked with EPA New England to design a new SharePoint site, which served as the E-Enterprise platform to conduct real-time state work plan negotiations, provided the opportunity to spur program dialogue in a new way, and allowed codification of negotiated 2-year agreements in a single document. This was the first time EPA New England used SharePoint for this type of E-Enterprise collaboration on such a large scale with external users. This involved significant time, effort and coordination within EPA and with state information technology offices, to resolve issues as they emerged.

Despite the technical challenges of creating this new E-Enterprise approach, it has been very successful. For instance, the air program completed negotiations through SharePoint with all six states within two months, and agreement for all work plan elements were completed with three states by mid-December – significantly faster than prior years. A high level of interest has been shown nationally for using this model to improve joint strategic planning by EPA and states to save time, resources, and produce measurable environmental results.

This year’s Environmental Merit Awards program was dedicated to the historic Paris climate agreement last year at which over 190 nations committed to universally limit global warming. The agreement is a strong starting point and promotes action over time that will protect this planet from the impacts of climate change.

More information on EPA’s Environmental Merit Awards, including photographs from the award ceremony: https://www.epa.gov/environmental-merit-awards-new-england

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