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Two Vermont Citizens Recognized by EPA for Environmental Achievements

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David Deegan (
(617) 918-1017

BOSTON – Two individuals from Vermont 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.

David Deen, a state representative for three decades, was recognized for lifetime achievement and James Surwilo was given an individual Merit Award at today's ceremony at Fanueil Hall.

"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.

This year's Environmental Awards Ceremony was dedicated to the memory of Douglas M. Costle, former dean of Vermont Law School who served as EPA Administrator from 1977 to 1981 and was a driving force in the creation of EPA. After Richard M. Nixon was inaugurated in 1969, Costle was recruited to the White House Advisory Council on Executive Organization where he played a major role in conceptualizing the agency. He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as EPA's administrator. At his first news conference, Costle noted that "Clean air is not an aesthetic luxury. It is a public health necessity." Costle advanced the argument, new at the time, that environmental regulation supported economic development because it preserved resources. Costle, who was dean at Vermont Law School from 1987 to 1991, died this year at his home in McLean, Va.

The 2019 Merit Award Winners from Vermont were:

Lifetime Achievement awards

David Deen
Putney, Vt.

David Deen, a Vermont representative for 30 years, spent much of that time also working as the Connecticut River Conservancy River Steward before he retired from both in 2018. Throughout his career, in both his personal and professional life, Deen worked for clean water protections. His deep knowledge of and clear passion for Vermont's rivers, lakes, streams, ponds and wetlands are an incredible gift to anyone who lives, works or plays in Vermont.

For most of his legislative career Deen was on the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, serving as chair for the nearly 15 years. He consistently created space for all voices to be heard and sponsored many pieces of important environmental legislation. Some of the most notable pieces of legislation were the designation of groundwater as a legally protected public trust resource in Vermont; four separate acts between 2010 and 2014 that promoted the identification and protection of flood hazard areas and river corridors to reduce flood and fluvial erosion hazards; and the Vermont Clean Water Act of 2015, which includes far-reaching requirements to improve stormwater management and expand agricultural stewardship activities statewide.

Deen has been a New Hampshire licensed fly-fishing guide for more than 20 years, teaching people to fish while also teaching them the basics of healthy rivers, and helping connect them directly to a resource he so clearly cherishes. This lifetime achievement award recognizes Deen's service to Vermont, Vermonters, and the state's incredible natural resources.


James Surwilo
Monpelier, Vt.

James "Buzz" Surwilo, who works in the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, has been effective in reducing the waste stream, specifically through salvaging and recycling of construction, demolition and disaster debris materials. Surwilo reviews Vermont's Act 250 plans, which require construction projects to have a waste management plan and offer suggestions for improving them. As a result, these plans are taken seriously and efforts to divert construction materials are becoming the norm. In the Robertson Paper brownfields cleanup in Bellows Falls, Surwilo reviewed the draft plan, met with contractors, and refined the plan, increasing the amounts of brick, timbers, and other materials to be reclaimed. After Tropical Storm Irene, a cooperative effort between DEC and the state Department of Transportation to rebuild a more sustainable infrastructure resulted in recycled asphalt shingles being used in a gravel mix for shoulder and dirt road maintenance projects. Surwilo's work increased the safe reuse, recycling and disposal of industrial byproducts, building materials and debris. Vermont produces about 25,000 tons of waste shingles per year and the sole recycler processes about 2,500 tons annually. Through Surwilo's efforts, the use of recycled asphalt shingles was successfully piloted in unbound aggregate mixtures. The use of these shingles in road construction materials is now in high demand statewide. In the recent construction season, demand for the shingles had increased by 50 percent. Surwilo's results have been replicated regionally and nationally. Surwilo's work has been recognized as an example of market development strategies in Vermont 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: