Governor LePage, DEP Commissioner Aho Honor Washington County Council of Governments For Environmental Excellence

April 19, 2012

CONTACT:
Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Spokesperson/Director of Communications samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov / 207-287-5842 (office) or 207-592-0427 (cell)

-The organization’s Brownfields program is cited with a Governor’s Award alongside other 2012 recipients including IDEXX, CLYNK, George R. Roberts Co., Maine Energy Systems and the Environmental Living & Learning for Maine Students Project-

GORHAM – The Washington County Council of Governments (WCCOG) has been recognized as part of the first state-sponsored environmental achievement awards handed out in Maine since 2005.

The Calais-based municipal membership organization, led by Executive Director Judy East, was honored as one of six stewards of sustainability presented with the 2012 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence by Governor Paul LePage and Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho in a ceremony Thursday at Jotul North America’s headquarters in Gorham.

The awards, administered by the Maine DEP and scheduled in conjunction with Earth Day (April 22), recognize entities voluntarily going beyond regulatory requirements to creatively and collaboratively initiate innovation that is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

WCCOG won in the “Public Sector” category for its county-wide Brownfields program, which has is restoring environmental vitality in a region greatly dependent on the health of its natural resources while activating needed economic development.

Through these coordinated efforts –funded by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and supported by the Maine DEP and WCCOG’s environmental consultant, GEI Consultants, Inc– over the past three years environmental assessments have been conducted at 11 sites and there has been redevelopment of five sites, including a former cannery now being used for regional storage by local lobstermen and a historic boat building school turned into a shop for construction of tidal power generation units.

In total, redevelopment projects presently underway have the potential to create up to 50 new full-time jobs and increase property value by over $4 million.

“I am truly delighted to receive this award in recognition of our regional Brownfields program in Washington County. Brownfields are a reflection of our commercial and industrial past. As a result, they are often some of the best locations for current development –downtown, on the waterfront, at major crossroads and close to existing infrastructure,” said WCCOG’s East.

“We are a sparsely populated county inhabited by independent individuals with a robust skepticism of big government programs. Yet we were able to very effectively use our community networks, explain the opportunity provided by this federal funding and work with Maine DEP and GEI Consultants, Inc. as a partner in re-development. The results are uniformly positive. We have built trust where there was suspicion, opened the door for redevelopment where there was stagnation and uncertainty, performed more than double the number of site assessments we projected and have a waiting list of landowners interested in entering the program if more funding becomes available.”

Other winners included IDEXX, of Westbrook; CLYNK, of South Portland; George R. Roberts Co., of Alfred; Maine Energy Systems, of Bethel; and the Environmental Living & Learning for Maine Students Project, a collaborative of Chewonki, Ferry Beach Ecology School and the UMaine 4-H Camp and Learning Centers at Bryant Pond and Tanglewood (in Lincolnville).

“For many Maine employers, Earth Day isn’t just one day a year, but a constant commitment to stewarding our natural resources and ensuring a sustainable economy. These Governor’s Award winners illustrate the interdependence of Maine’s economy and the environment and why the choice between the two should never be ‘either or’ because it must always be ‘both,’” said Governor LePage.

Commissioner Aho said it was important for the state to start acknowledging Maine’s many environmental leaders who are modeling her department’s vision of a mutually healthy environment and economy.

“Maine has long been a national leader when it comes to environmental excellence and our 2012 Governor’s Awards recipients are carrying on that legacy,” Aho said. “As Maine’s foremost environmental organization, it has great meaning when we respect and recognize these leaders and that the innovation improving our environment and our economy comes directly from Maine employers and people. I want to thank all of the nominees for their commitment of creativity, time and resources toward our shared vision of making Maine a better place to live, work and play for ours and future generations.”

Aho added the awards program is one of the many activities the DEP has advanced under the LePage administration that further the agency’s culture of cooperation with the regulated community. Others include expanded technical assistance, permitting process improvements and pragmatic regulatory reform.

Based on the success of this year’s awards, Maine DEP intends to continue the annual recognition program with nominations for the 2013 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence opening in late 2012. More information can be found at http://www.maine.gov/dep or by contacting Samantha DePoy-Warren at 207-287-5842.

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