Northwest Indiana Partners for Clean Air honored the Region’s top air quality leaders and winners of three college scholarships at the organization’s 2021 Virtual Awards Ceremony.
“These award recipients have made great strides in ensuring that air quality in Northwest Indiana continues to improve,” IDEM Commissioner Bruno Pigott, said. “Their efforts set the bar across the state for organizations and individuals to help make our air cleaner for all Hoosiers.”
Four awards were presented for voluntary actions taken to improve air quality during 2021. The winners were selected from among nominations submitted to the Partners for Clean Air Steering Committee earlier this year.
NIPSCO of Merrillville received the Business Award for its work with South Shore Clean Cities on Project Plug-IN. In the fall of 2020, NIPSCO assisted in making 24 new public electric vehicle charging stations in 18 communities across Northern Indiana a reality by offsetting the cost of matching funds for Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund grant projects with $500 donations for eligible applicants.
The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor received the Industrial Award for multiple clean air projects undertaken by the Port and its tenants in 2020. Last year, the Port secured funding through the Indiana Office of Energy Development’s grant program to add an all-electric security vehicle to its operations. The Port also received grant funding in 2020 through the Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund grant program for the installation of an electric vehicle charging station.
The Municipal Award was presented to the Porter County Sheriff’s Office. In July 2020, the Porter County Sheriff’s Office celebrated the addition of 11 new hybrid squad cars to its fleet, making the department the first law enforcement agency in the state of Indiana to adopt hybrid vehicle technology. The Ford Police Interceptor Hybrid SUVs, acquired with the assistance of funds from the Indiana Office of Energy Development’s Indiana Rural Energy Innovation grant program, will reduce harmful emissions, save taxpayer dollars, and increase investments in renewable, domestic fuels.
The Mark Siminski Bicycle Award was presented to Mitch Barloga, active transportation planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, for his years of service to the Region. Barloga joined the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission – the metropolitan planning commission for Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties – in 2003 and has served as its active transportation planner ever since. In his role, Barloga is the lead planner for Region trails which now total more than 190 miles.
The winners of the Partners for Clean Air scholarships were also announced during the virtual event. The scholarship winners were Quentin Funderburg of La Lumiere High School in La Porte, who will attend Williams College to study chemistry and environmental science; Lucia Otten of Valparaiso High School, who will attend Valparaiso University to study environmental studies and Spanish; and Adelaide Young Brust of South Central Jr.-Sr. High School in Union Mills, who will attend Indiana University in Bloomington to study environmental and sustainability studies.
The three scholarship winners were selected to each receive $2,500 scholarships from among the participants in the competitive essay contest judged by members of the Partners for Clean Air Steering Committee earlier this year.
IDEM Commissioner Bruno Pigott served as the virtual event’s keynote speaker and provided an update on Northwest Indiana air quality. Shannon Zaret, energy technology program specialist in the Weatherization & Intergovernmental Programs Office of the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy, shared information about programs aimed at energy affordability, security, and resiliency.
About Partners for Clean Air
Partners for Clean Air is a coalition of Northwest Indiana businesses, industries, local governments, community groups and individuals committed to improving overall air quality and public health through voluntary actions. Members of the Partners for Clean Air Program develop Air Quality Action Plans designed to be implemented on Air Quality Action Days as a way of reducing harmful pollutants. To learn more, please visit https://www.in.gov/idem/partnerships/2456.htm.
About Air Quality Action Days
Air Quality Action Days (AQADs) are days when ground-level ozone pollution or fine particulate matter could build to unhealthy levels in the outdoor air. IDEM issues AQAD advisories for ozone and PM2.5 based on air quality forecasts, air quality standards, and Air Quality Index (AQI) categories. When AQADs are predicted, Hoosiers can take action to protect their health and protect air quality. Air Quality Action Day forecasts begin May 1 and end September 30 each year. For more information and to subscribe to alerts, please visit www.smogwatch.IN.gov.