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Clean Air Excellence Awards

Past Award Recipients

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Thomas W. Zosel Outstanding Individual Achievement Award Recipients


Dick Valentinetti - Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

As the longest-serving state air director in the country, Richard A. Valentinetti has demonstrated a lasting commitment to improving air quality. During his tenure over the past four decades as the Director of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation's Air Pollution Control Division, his list of accomplishments is extensive. He has consistently invested resources in air quality monitoring and research, establishing Vermont as a national leader in improving the scientific understanding of complex regional, national and international air quality issues. Mr. Valentinetti played a key role in providing the technical basis for EPA's acid rain program and in conducting long-term monitoring in Vermont that demonstrated the long-range transport of mercury emissions. He emerged as a leader in developing the New England Governor's/Eastern Canadian Premiers' mercury and climate action plans and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. His legacy of improving air quality also includes adopting a number of air quality regulations in Vermont that served as models for other states, such as groundbreaking air toxics regulations and the first emission limits for outdoor wood-fired boilers. He also coordinated the regional haze program for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, and was critical in the region adopting and implementing California's low-emission vehicle standards, zero emission vehicle standards and greenhouse gas emission standards.

Mr. Valentinetti served as the President of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA), on the board of directors for the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) and on the executive committee of the board of the Northeast States Center for a Clean Air Future. He currently serves as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and remains a passionate advocate and a strong voice for environmental protection. Thanks to his successful efforts to reduce emissions of criteria pollutants, air toxics and greenhouse gases over the past forty years, we can all breathe a little easier.


Dan Greenbaum — Health Effects Institute

Over the past thirty years, Daniel Greenbaum has become a well-known and respected leader in innovative environmental and public health policy.  His ability to build consensus among a broad range of diverse interests has made him a sought-after spokesperson in Congress and other national forums. For nearly 15 years Dan has served as President of the Health Effects Institute, where he led the effort to reanalyze two key studies that were central to evaluation and setting of the national air quality standard, the Harvard Six Cities and the American Cancer Society Studies. This work helped restore broader trust in science-based decision making.

Dan has often been called upon to lead experts in the review of difficult questions at the center of environmental and public health policy. In 1999 he chaired a National Blue Ribbon Panel on the use of oxygenates in gasoline, where he provided key policy recommendations adopted by congress, leading to a dramatic reduction in the use of oxygenates and increasing the protection of ground and surface waters. During his six year tenure on the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) National Research Council, Dan co-chaired the NAS Committee on Air Quality Management, which reviewed the effectiveness of the Clean Air Act and identified ways to improve its implementation for Congress. Dan served as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection from 1988 to 1994, when the agency received national recognition for the Commonwealth's innovative approach of accelerating the clean up of state superfund sites, efforts on pollution prevention, and multi-media inspection and permitting.

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Dr. William Malm — National Park Service

While some call him Dr. Visibility in the United States, Dr. William Malm of the National Park Service is more formally recognized as the leading scientist behind the visibility protection provisions of the Clean Air Act. His science-driven policies are a testament to his dedication to the environment and his perseverance in bringing science to the issue of air quality.

Since making some of the first visibility and air quality measurements in the National Park Service system at the Grand Canyon in 1972, he has designed and built instrumentation to measure the effects of atmospheric aerosols on the scenic qualities of landscape features, as well as their optical and chemical properties. By linking visibility impairment to specific sources, Dr. Malm’s studies have lead to requirements for pollution reduction at major power plants in the Southwest. Through his formulation of radiation transfer algorithms, his pioneering of visibility perception studies, and his leadership in collaborative efforts, Dr. Malm has also played an integral role in improving air quality by significantly reducing sulfur emissions.

In addition to his technical achievements, Dr. Malm serves as the intellectual leader responsible for the Interagency Monitoring of PROtected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) Network. From the establishment of the IMPROVE monitoring network, to the development of the IMPROVE equation (which is the basis for EPA regional haze regulations), to the very metrics used to characterize visibility, he has applied sound science to protecting our nation’s most treasured vistas.

Dr. Malm has demonstrated leadership, outstanding achievement, and lasting commitment to promoting clean air and helping to achieve better air quality for 30 years. The steadily improving visibility we enjoy in many parts of the U.S. is largely due to the research and advocacy of Dr. William Malm.

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Dr. Joseph T. Ling — 3M

Dr. Joseph Ling was a pioneer in the field of environmental and air quality management. Throughout Dr. Ling’s distinguished career, he revolutionized the way society understands and manages its environmental impacts. He was one of the first individuals to articulate and embrace a holistic approach to environmental management that considers the environmental impacts to all media (air, water, and land) when evaluating policy and program decisions.

In 1975, Dr. Ling launched 3M’s revolutionary Pollution Prevention Pays program (3P). 3P is based on the reality that pollution prevention is more economical, environmentally effective, and technically sound than conventional pollution control equipment. 3P seeks to eliminate pollution at the source through product reformulation, process modification, equipment redesign, and the recycling and reuse of waste materials. The program has been instrumental in helping 3M to reduce its volatile organic air emissions by 95 percent since 1990. Over the last 32 years, the program has prevented more than 2.6 billion pounds of first year pollutants with more than 565 million pounds coming from the prevention of emissions to air.

Dr. Ling’s greatest impact may be from his work to spread these ideas globally. After first presenting his ideas in 1976 at a conference sponsored by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Sweden adopted pollution prevention as a formal part of their environmental policies.

Up until his death in 2005, Dr. Ling continued to advocate a holistic, pollution prevention approach and donated his time to advancing proactive, science-based environmental decision making.

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Ron Harris, Former County Judge — Collin County, TX

For the past 15 years, Judge Ron Harris of Collin County, Texas, has not only shouldered the vast responsibilities of a County Judge, but has also committed himself to improving air quality in the State of Texas and in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area.  Judge Harris serves as Chair of the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee (NTCAS) and is founder of the Texas Clean Air Working Group (TCAWG).  He was instrumental in the development of the DFW ozone nonattainment plan, and is now working to provide direction on the future 9 county ozone plan through NTCAS for the new 8 hour standard.  Judge Harris has been an advocate for partnerships of local elected officials and stakeholders with the State of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency in air quality planning. During his tenure as chairman of TCAWG, Judge Harris led the way to secure funding for the Texas Emission Reduction Program.  This program, which has become a model across the country, is now funded at over $150 million per year and provides more funds for diesel engines than the rest of the country combined.  Mr. Harris’ leadership for clean air and innovative initiatives has resulted in great strides in improving Texas air quality. 

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David G. Hawkins — Natural Resources Defense Council

David G. Hawkins’ name has been synonymous with clean air and the Clean Air Act. Mr. Hawkins joined the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as an attorney in 1971 and was involved in intensive work with industrial air pollution control, transportation and indirect source controls, and attainment of air quality standards. He was directly involved in regulatory proceedings of the EPA and other Federal agencies and has testified frequently before Congress. Mr. Hawkins has served on two advisory committees of the Federal Energy Administration. In addition, Mr. Hawkins worked as resource group member to the National Research Council’s Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems. He was appointed by President Carter to be Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air, Noise, and Radiation at EPA. In that position he was responsible for initiating major new programs under the 1977 Amendments to the Clean Air Act. On his return to NRDC in 1981, Mr. Hawkins worked primarily on reauthorizing the Clean Air Act, including the development of a national program to combat acid rain. The Clean Air Project, which Mr. Hawkins began with former NRDC attorney Dick Ayres, has monitored and shaped the design of the Clean Air Act since the law’s passage. Working with the Clean Air Coalition, NRDC was a major architect for provisions of a much-strengthened Clean Air Act Law in 1990. Mr. Hawkins also served on the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee providing EPA valuable advice on how to proceed with the implementation of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. Mr. Hawkins currently serves as the Director of NRDC’s Climate Center and continues his tireless dedication to improving air quality and informing the public on the importance of these issues.

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James M. Lents, Ph.D.

James Lents has 27 years of experience directing air quality improvement and research programs nationwide. He is widely acknowledged as a leader in national and international air quality arenas, and has been responsible for numerous technical and policy breakthroughs in the air quality field. Over the course of his career, Dr. Lents has served as the Executive Director of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and the Director of the Colorado air pollution control program and the Chattanooga, Tennessee air pollution control program. He also helped to develop the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and the 1988 California Clean Act and served on four Presidential Commissions reviewing diesel standards, alternative fuels, automobile global warming emissions, and air quality standards. Dr. Lents currently serves as the Director of the Center for Sustainable Suburb Development at the University of California, Riverside and Director of the Atmospheric Processes, Modeling, and Environmental Policy Laboratory for the University of California Center for Environmental Research and Technology.

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John C. Elston — Trenton, New Jersey

John C. Elston has provided 33 years of dedicated service and leadership to the State of New Jersey in the air pollution reduction area. As Administrator of the Office of Air Quality Management in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, his efforts resulted in significant reductions in outside air levels of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, the main components of ground level ozone – one of New Jersey's most serious air pollution problems. Mr. Elston presided over the implementation of the country's first inspection and maintenance program to ensure that vehicles continue to emit within their allowable limits. He also has played a key role in planning and implementing future measures to reduce air pollutant levels.

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Michael P. Walsh has over 30 years of dedicated service in addressing air pollution problems worldwide, at the local, national, and international level. As a senior expert on air quality control issues, Mr. Walsh has contributed to more than 120 publications on topics ranging from vehicle emissions and catalyst performance, global warming, acid rain deposition, and air pollution control policy assessment.

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If you have any questions about the Clean Air Excellence Awards Program, please contact Jim DeMocker of EPA's Office of Air and Radiation at democker.jim@epa.gov.

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