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Rhode Island Citizen and Organization Recognized by EPA for Environmental Achievements

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

BOSTON – An individual and a government initiative in Rhode Island were each 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.

Peter August of Richmond, a University of Rhode Island professor since 1981, and the Electric Transit Bus Team of the RI Department of Environmental Management were each honored at today's ceremony at Fanueil Hall. Mr. August won an individual Merit Award and the Bus Team won in the government 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 Rhode Island were:


Peter August
Richmond, RI

As a University of Rhode Island professor since 1981, Peter August has inspired hundreds of individuals to get involved in science and conservation. As a volunteer, he has developed trails and protected land. As a visionary, he has developed programs to support habitat and promote scientific decision tools. August's engagement in environmental issues made him the obvious choice by the governor to chair the Science and Technical Advisory Board. In this position, August developed climate change information and played an important role in developing Resilient Rhody, the state's resiliency plan. Founding director of URI's Coastal Institute, August brought together scientists and stakeholders to improve public policies. He was a founder of URI's Environmental Data Center, which uses GIS mapping to address land conservation and natural resource management. August uses geographic mapping to help the state conserve properties and he has made GIS technology accessible to environmental decision-makers, improving the quality of decisions and helping ensure a more resilient Rhode Island. As chair of the Science Advisory Committee for Napatree Point Conservation Area, a pristine barrier island ecosystem in Westerly, August has coordinated vegetation surveys, aerial photo acquisition, depth and eelgrass monitoring, shoreline mapping, and mammal, bat and bird surveys since 2012. This work has demonstrated how fragile coastal areas can be protected from degradation and can rebound from storms. August's ability to drive lasting change makes him a conservation leader and hero in Rhode Island.


Electric Transit Bus Team
RI Department of Environmental Management

A team from four state agencies helped develop a plan using Rhode Island's $14.4 million share of a federal settlement with Volkswagen. As lead agency and administrator of the funds, the RI Department of Environmental Management developed the mitigation plan in conjunction with the Office of Energy Resources, the RI Public Transit Authority and the Division of Public Utilities. The state's plan for using the settlement funds, called the Beneficiary Mitigation Plan, calls for a 10-year period for environmental mitigation projects to improve air quality in Rhode Island, reduce diesel and nitrogen oxide emissions, and install electric vehicle infrastructure. Under the proposed plan, $10 million will pay to replace about 20 aging diesel buses with all-electric zero-emission vehicles, with a focus on communities with poor air quality and high asthma rates. Rhode Island has 73 hybrid buses. With this investment, the state's bus fleet will be about 36 percent low and zero-emission vehicles. Another $1.5 million will be used to add 15 to 30 fast-charging stations in 2020 to the eight existing public stations. About $2.5 million would be divided among organizations for the administrative costs of the projects. This initiative to replace the oldest diesel buses with zero emission vehicles could not have come to fruition without the dedicated service of employees at each of the four agencies.

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.

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: