For more than 30 years, U.S. EPA New England has honored those who have made outstanding contributions on behalf of the New England region's environment. EPA's "Environmental Merit Awards" program has honored teachers, citizen activists, business leaders, scientists, public officials and others who have made outstanding contributions on behalf of the region's public health and natural environment. The Environmental Merit Awards recognize outstanding accomplishments during the past year or over a lifetime.
The newest award presented on Earth Day 2014 at a ceremony in Boston's Faneuil Hall is the "Ira Leighton - In Service to States" Award. That inaugural award was presented to former MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell.
The New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), the Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association (NEWMOA), in coordination with the New England state Environmental Commissioners and EPA Region 1 have initiated the Ira Leighton “In Service to States” Environmental Merit Award as a tribute to the long-time colleague and friend, Ira Leighton, who passed away in 2013, after serving 41 years at the US EPA. Ira's dedication and passion for protecting the environment was evident to all who knew him. He was a constant presence in New England; a force who took ideas and made them actionable tasks that resulted in measurable improvements.
During his tenure at MassDEP from January 2011 through March 2014, and his earlier tenure as General Counsel at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs from 2007 through 2011, Ken Kimmell demonstrated a stellar record protecting the environment, proactively addressing climate change, promoting sustainability and innovation, and advancing clean energy technology at the state, regional, and local levels.
Ken's dedication and record are evident in several high profile issues locally and at the national level. Ken's efforts and accomplishments include work on air quality and greenhouse gasses, compliance/enforcement, access to quality data, as well as work on solid waste, recycling, organics and water management. Ken was a leader in the planning and implementation of the Energy and Environmental Information and Public Access System (EIPAS). Ken was a charter member of the EELC (E-Enterprise Leadership Council) for the EPA/ECOS E-Enterprise Initiative, where he worked with Ira. He made significant strides in improving the management of solid waste in Massachusetts culminating in the issuance of the updated Solid Waste Master Plan in 2013. In New Bedford, MA Ken championed an approach to state involvement in the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Site that led to multiple environmental and economic benefits. On Cape Cod Ken worked with EPA on innovative approaches to assuring compliance at commercial and industrial facilities.
Ken was a steadfast admirer of Ira, and saw in him the quintessential public servant and selfless champion for the mission of the EPA. He saw, and learned from Ira, the importance of collaboration, especially between state and federal partners, the critical role of stakeholder engagement, and how leadership can drive innovative and creative problem-solving. In each of these efforts, he has actively promoted partnerships with EPA and other states.