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Release Date: 04/19/2000
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON - Six individuals and organizations from Connecticut were honored today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their contributions to the environment. The Rhode Island winners were among 37 recipients from around New England that received Environmental Merit Awards at an Earth Day ceremony at Faneuil Hall.

The awards, given out since 1970, are awarded to individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts to preserve the environment. This year's competition drew nearly 100 applications.

"These residents and organizations from Connecticut have played a significant role in protecting and cleaning the air, water and land that is so important to our health and well-being," said Mindy S. Lubber, EPA's New England Administrator. "All of us have the ability to serve the environment. It just takes will. The men and women being honored today serve as examples of people who had the will and found a way to help make sure we all have a cleaner, safer environment."

The six winners from Connecticut were:

    • Arthur "Gene" Billings (deceased) of Norfolk: Billings, who died tragically in October on Egypt Air Flight 990, spent the last 15 years of his life on a crusade to conserve and protect the natural environment. An educator, Gene used his research and writing skills to give people a greater appreciation for natural habitats and the environment. He researched, wrote and published two books, "Birds of Prey in Connecticut" and "Finding Birds in Connecticut." At the time of his death, he was working on a third book on strategies for finding birds in New England. Billings also was an incorporating founder and first president of the Norfolk Land Trust, which owns about 300 acres and has conservation easements on 1,385 acres. He served about 12 years at the Land Trust where he developed and maintained the "Land Trust Book of Norfolk Trails." He also helped create a nature trail with his wife Barbara, who also died in the Egypt Air crash.
    • State Air Offices in and Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island: The offices responsible for air quality in these three states voluntarily submitted regulations to EPA to reduce air pollution regarding the interstate transport of nitrogen oxides, a precursor of ozone smog. The states submitted these regulations despite a court ruling that said the states did not yet have to meet these federal requirements. Regulations from these three states will result in nitrogen oxide reductions of more than 5,500 tons each ozone season beginning in 2003. These three states were the only states in the country to make such submissions to date.
    • Eco-2000 in Danbury: Eco-2000 was created by the City of Danbury to give citizens of this city and western Connecticut a better understanding of progress made in protecting the region's natural resources over the last 30 years. The initiative introduces diverse groups to the value of Danbury's ecosystems. The goal is to show residents the tangible benefits of a sustainable environment. As part of the program, the city identified properties that should be acquired as conservation sites; initiated environmental improvements at green, open space areas, including restoration of an urban pond; and set a goal to integrate all open space areas into a thematically linked networked dedicated to conservation.
    • NEMO Team at University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System: The University of Connecticut runs one of the country's most innovative and effective programs for addressing nonpoint source pollution. NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) was designed by a group of educators at the university's Cooperative Extension System. The NEMO team has figured out how to effectively address the complicated issues of nonpoint pollution and land use management. For a start, they identified the key group that can solve these problems: local land use officials, many of whom are volunteers. The team has developed cutting-edge educational materials - focusing on preventing problems rather than minimizing them after they occur. The program has become a national model and adaptations have sprung up in more than a dozen states across the country.
    • Advocates for the Preservation and Protection of the Shepaug River: The Advocates for the Preservation and Protection of the Shepaug River have shown what can happen when a group of dedicated individuals persevere to protect a river as a natural resource. The Shepaug is one of the few rivers in Connecticut that offers a sense of solitude as well as numerous recreational opportunities to fishermen, canoeists, kayakers and hikers. Over the years, the river's health has been compromised by water withdrawals by the City of Waterbury, with the worst impacts felt in summer, when flows are naturally low. The group's conservation and preservation efforts culminated in a legal challenge against the city -- an effort that resulted in a ruling requiring the city to allow greater stream flows for the river.
    • Connecticut River Watch Program, Middletown: The Connecticut River Watch Program, through the strong leadership of director Jane Brawerman, has recruited, trained and coordinated 70 citizen volunteers to conduct water quality monitoring in the lower Connecticut River basin. This program for the lower river and several of its tributaries was established in 1992. For many years, these dedicated volunteers have spent their weekends and free time producing high quality data that is being used by local communities and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to address water quality problems. Last year, the program began offering technical assistance to other new volunteer monitoring groups throughout the Connecticut River basin.