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Maine Citizens and Organizations Recognized by EPA for Environmental Achievements

Contact Information: 
David Deegan (
(617) 918-1017

BOSTON – Two individuals and one business from Maine were recognized today by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their work to protect New England's environment. These environmental leaders were among 25 recipients across New England honored by EPA's New England office at the 2019 Environmental Merit Awards ceremony at Faneuil Hall.

The winners from Maine were John Banks, director of the Penobscot Indian Nation's Department of Natural Resources and Matthew Scott, former state biologist and longtime environmentalist, who both received lifetime awards. In addition, Garbage to Garden in Portland won a merit award in the business category.

"The New England individuals, businesses, and organizations recognized today have shown dedication to the environmental and public health in their communities," said EPA New England Administrator Dennis Deziel. "We are proud to present awards to these stewards of New England's air, land and water."

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 2019 Merit Award Winners from Maine were:

Lifetime Achievement awards

John Banks
Indian Island, Maine

John Banks was named director of the Penobscot Indian Nation's Department of Natural Resources when the Nation was first recognized in 1980. A graduate of University of Maine with a degree in forestry, Banks became the department's first employee and continues today as the only director it has had. He now runs a department of eight programs.

The Penobscot Nation, under Banks's leadership, has protected human health and the environment through comprehensive water quality monitoring and many projects reducing runoff along the Penobscot River and other waterbodies. Banks also has overseen cleanup of 440 contaminated acres on Nation lands.

Banks has been a steadfast advocate for protective water quality standards in the Penobscot and other waters where Penobscot Nation members fish for sustenance. He was lead negotiator of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, which began in 1999 with a goal to re-balance hydro-power and restore sea-run fisheries on the river. Through this monumental effort involving the Nation, federal, state and NGO partners, two obstructing dams were removed and a fish byway was constructed allowing 11 fish species, including the Atlantic salmon, to return. Since then, thousands of diadromous fish species have returned to the river and tributaries, providing lasting sustenance for tribal members and the general populace.

As commissioner of the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission for 31 years, Banks is the longest serving commissioner in commission history. He also served on the National Tribal Environmental Council, EPA New England's Tribal Operations Committee, the East Regional Tribal Conservation Advisory Council, the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society, the National Indian Policy Center, and Maine Rivers. In 2015, Banks became the first indigenous member of the US delegation to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization annual international meeting.

Due to John Banks' 39 years of leadership, the Nation's environmental program is widely recognized as a model for tribes across the nation.

Matthew Scott
Belgrade, Maine

Since childhood, Matthew Scott has been an avid outdoorsman. In 1962, Scott became assistant regional fisheries biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game, then regional biologist in 1967.

In 1970, he was recruited by the Environmental Improvement Commission, later renamed Department of Environmental Protection, as the first biologist in an agency of primarily engineers. He developed strong scientific programs to protect water quality, which led to a Maine Lakes Working Group, made up of state agencies promoting management of Maine's lakes and ponds. 

In 1974, Scott formed the Maine Volunteer Lakes Monitoring Program, leading to four decades of data from hundreds of lakes. Under Scott's leadership, staff at DEP developed a biological monitoring program assessing water quality and a nutrient management model regulating development, both among the best in the country.

When Scott retired from DEP in 1988, he became executive director of the Maine Low Level Radioactive Waste Commission, working to find a long-term storage site for low-level radioactive waste from Maine Yankee. His 1995 retirement brought him to Colby College, where he taught environmental science for two years before becoming deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

In 2000, as executive director of Project SHARE, Scott helped create river watershed councils for five major rivers. In 2003, he was appointed to the Board of Environmental Protection, a citizen board providing oversight to the DEP, where he served eight years, eventually as chairman.

The list goes on. Scott even found time to be a planning board member and Boy Scouts Scoutmaster in his hometown of Belgrade. A board member of the Seven Lakes Alliance of the Belgrade Lakes region, Scott has donated most of his 100-plus-acre farm as a conservation trust. Matt Scott is a perpetual guardian of environmental quality.


Garbage to Garden
Portland, Maine

Garbage to Garden is a regional food scrap recycler, providing curbside composting throughout Maine and the Boston area. Serving more than 8,000 households, businesses, schools and events, the nine-year-old Garbage to Garden collects an average of 21 tons of food scraps daily and is recognized as the most subscribed to composting company in the country. Households who subscribe get buckets to fill with compostables that Garbage to Garden takes away weekly. The organization also installs raised bed gardens to more than 100 urban and suburban gardeners yearly. For hundreds of businesses, schools, and universities, as well as local municipalities, Garbage to Garden provides commercial composting and recycling while educating students and employees on composting and recycling. The business started in founder Tyler Frank's apartment and expanded into 1,000 square feet, where Tyler lived for six months in a tent to save money for equipment. Four years ago, it moved to a 5,000-square-foot building and now needs a larger facility. A second location recently opened in Saugus. More event organizers each year look to Garbage to Garden to examine their waste and find alternatives that can be composted and recycled. It provides these services to some of New England's biggest festivals and hundreds of smaller events. Garbage to Garden's volunteer program allows lower income participants to earn free composting service. The business donates dozens of yards of compost a year to school and community gardens. Garbage to Garden's curbside composting has become much greater than the sum of its parts. Its work has been recognized locally and nationally.

In addition to these winners, Robert Klee, commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection from January 2014 to December 2018, 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.

This year's Environmental Awards Ceremony was dedicated to the memory of Douglas M. Costle, who served as administrator for EPA from 1977 to 1981 and was among the driving forces in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA also announced that The Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition in Springfield would be honored for its role in children's health. Established in 2006, the coalition works to improve the lives of families, individuals, and communities affected by asthma in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.

More information on EPA's Environmental Merit Awards, including photographs from the award ceremony: