EPA Recognizes Four Maine Organizations and Citizens with Regional Environmental Award
BOSTON – The US Environmental Protection Agency today recognized Four individuals and organizations in Maine for their work to protect New England's environment. They were among 24 recipients across New England honored by EPA's New England office at the 2020 Environmental Merit Awards virtual ceremony.
EPA New England's annual Environmental Merit Awards are given to community leaders, scientists, government officials, business leaders, schools, and students who represent different approaches, but a common commitment to environmental protection.
"Initiatives led by individuals and groups like this years' awardees have driven progress toward clean water and clean air, built community support for revitalization investments, sparked environmental innovation, reduced waste, and protected the public from exposure to harmful substances," said EPA New England Administrator Dennis Deziel. "EPA is always proud to recognize the honorees' dedication, commitment to partnerships, and passion for success that has led to measurable change." Deziel noted that this year's award celebration – an online video presentation - by necessity differed from past years, but reaffirmed the awards ceremony is more important than ever.
Among those recognized in Maine, Shari Venno of Littleton was given a lifetime achievement awards for a career or life devoted to protecting the New England environment.
EPA New England each year recognizes individuals and groups in the six New England states who are distinguished by their work to protect or improve the region's environment. The merit awards, given since 1970, honor individuals and groups who have shown ingenuity and commitment. The Environmental Merit Awards, given for work or actions done in the prior year, 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.
The 2020 Merit Award Winners from Maine were:
Venno of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians came to the tribe in 1993 and was assigned to establish and develop the tribe's environmental program. One of the Band's environmental priorities, a goal set by the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Tribal Council, was to re-establish Atlantic salmon to the Meduxnekeag River watershed. Nearly three decades later, Venno has not only advanced the Band's environmental program and watershed restoration, but also has represented her tribe and region in policy and collaborative problem-solving at all levels of government. For more than 20 years, Venno has represented the 10 federally recognized tribes in New England on the National Tribal Operations Committee.
In 1991, Venno published "Integrating Wildlife Habitat into Local Planning: A Handbook for Local Communities." She also has represented the Houlton Band and other New England tribes in the Gulf of Maine Council; the National Ocean Council —Regional Planning Body; the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative Steering Committee; and the Northeast Regional Ocean Council—Ocean Planning Committee. She is a founding member of the Meduxnekeag Watershed Coalition, and over the years has worked with others to develop a Meduxnekeag Watershed Management Plan. Perhaps Venno's most impactful initiative has been her effort to establish a collaboration to restore the Wolastoq/St. John River watershed, which extends into Canada. In 2015, her efforts resulted in U.S. and Canadian agencies convening, along with six Maliseet First Nations, to identify watershed restoration priorities, address fish passage concerns with Atlantic salmon as the keystone species and develop a relationship among partners.
Enviro, Community, Academia and Non-Profit
Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission
The Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission's Brownfields program has an extraordinary track record of success with over $224 million leveraged and $10 million in EPA funds used to revitalize contaminated sites. Among the sites the commission has redeveloped are a former tannery, a town pier, a church, a fire station, schools, and several mills, which now are home for small businesses, restaurants, and housing. Biddeford has been successfully redeveloped. One of the mills contains 1,191 solar panels and produces 437,320 kilowatt hours of clean energy yearly. With help from the commission, a former church now is a public library powered by solar panels. The organization's diverse project list, from multi-million-square-foot mills to former gas stations, allows its Brownfields program to serve as a blueprint for a variety of options. The commission's innovative process of identifying projects, funding assessments, helping with cleanup, and eventual redevelopment is a model for any municipality. Its approach involving communication with municipal, non-profit organizations and the for-profit development sector has enabled the commission to maximize the benefits of financial investments.
Pottle's Transportation LLC
Pottle's Transportation has a motto "Welcome Home to Pottle's," which encourages a culture where people feel at home. The company's values include giving back to the community and the environment. Pottle's recycles paper products and reuses waste oil for heating oil. It takes significant steps to improve air quality, including buying Volvo sleepers trucks that travel an average of 120,000 miles a year, come with multiple safety features, and have features that allow for improved fuel mileage. The company spends an average of $10,000 extra per truck so all of trucks are equipped with auxiliary power units and don't have to idle. In addition, every driver is eligible for a quarterly fuel bonus that includes low idle, which has led to a decrease in idling. The company seeks to demonstrate the importance of air quality to other companies in the trucking industry, and its own employees and drivers.
Agri-Cycle's core mission is to divert food waste from incinerators and landfills in an environmentally responsible way. Using anaerobic digesters, the company converts food into clean renewable energy. Agri-Cycle, which began in 2012, collects and processes food waste from more than 1,500 restaurants, markets, colleges, hotels and other partners. Tonnage has jumped from 32,121 in 2017 to 54,380 in 2019. Agri-Cycle also works with food banks and pantries to help feed the undernourished. By sending zero food waste to landfills, Agri-Cycle is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and soil and water contamination while turning waste into electricity. Agric-Cycle is located on a fifth-generation dairy farm in Exeter, Maine, where the digestion process supports the family's goal of sustaining a traditional operation through innovative, environmentally responsible strategies. Amid growing demand and awareness of the benefits of anaerobic digestion, the Agri-Cycle team has supported others new to the field. The company believes in the mission and in creating a strong network of partners striving for a sustainable New England.
In addition to these award winners, Ronald Poltak of New Hampshire, was given the Ira Leighton "In Service to States" annual award for environmental achievement that has had an outsized impact in the state, the region, and nationally. The award recognized Poltak for his work at the helm of the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission for 37 years until his retirement in 2017.
More information on EPA's Environmental Merit Awards, including photographs from the award ceremony: https://www.epa.gov/environmental-merit-awards-new-england.