Clean Water Action Announces 2022 Environmental Champions

PROVIDENCE – Today, Clean Water Action is excited to announce their 2022 Environmental Champions: Kate Michaud, Liza Burkin, Attorney General Peter Neronha, and former Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. Additionally, Meg Kerr is this year’s recipient of the David R. Gerraughty Award for Lifetime Commitment to the Environment. They will be honored during Clean Water Action’s 20th annual Breakfast of Champions, held virtually this year on Friday, May 13th at 9:30 AM.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Breakfast of Champions. Each year for the past two decades, Clean Water Action has recognized the grassroots activists and elected officials in Rhode Island who have led efforts to defend our environment, protect public health, and fight the  climate crisis. This year, Clean Water Action is also celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“We know that fighting the climate crisis needs to be at the forefront of all of our efforts in the coming years, and all of our 2022 honorees are helping Rhode Island punch above our weight in climate leadership and innovation,” said Kai Salem, Clean Water Action Advisory Board Member.

Clean Water Action has named these five Rhode Islanders as 2022 Champions:

Kate Michaud, Local Leader of the Year, is the Town Manager of Warren, RI. Kate is being recognized for her leadership and commitment to fighting the climate crisis with her work on climate resilience planning, green bonds, ecosystem restoration, and waterway preservation. Her efforts in Warren to properly prepare her town for coastal flooding are a roadmap for coastal communities across the country.

Liza Burkin, Environmental Advocate of the Year, is the lead organizer of the Providence Streets Coalition. Liza is being honored due to her tireless efforts to bring people-power to the effort to make Providence more bike and pedestrian-friendly through innovative urban planning that takes sustainability, public health, and equity into consideration.

Attorney General Peter Neronha, Elected Official of the Year, has been an advocate for and defender of Rhode Island’s ambitious Act on Climate legislation. Attorney General Neronha’s support helped ensure that the bill was signed into law, and he is now putting the new law to work for the people of Rhode Island by, for example, making sure that the sale of Narragansett Electric meets the state’s Act on Climate obligations. He has led the way in incorporating fighting climate change into all aspects of state and local government.

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the former Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, is being honored for her pioneering efforts to integrate environmental justice and climate change into public health policy. From her 2015 letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission raising concerns about the disparate health outcomes in the area surrounding a proposed LNG facility to her creation of the innovative Health Equity Zones, Dr. Alexander-Scott has fought for a healthy environment for the residents of every zip code in Rhode Island.

Meg Kerr will receive the David R. Gerraughty Award for Lifetime Commitment to the Environment. This peer-nominated award is given each year to one member of the environmental community who has made significant, long-term contributions to environmental and public health protections in Rhode Island over the course of their life and/or career.

Meg has been an environmental leader in Rhode Island for over three decades, working for the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, Watershed Counts, Rhode Island Rivers Council, the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center, and, most recently as a member of the advocacy community at Clean Water Action and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. Throughout her career, she has been known for using her skills of listening and collaboration to bring people together and lift up new leaders.

Her decades of service have left a legacy of environmental achievements. She was instrumental in the passage of the 2014 Resilient RI Act and the 2021 Act On Climate bill, landmark climate laws whose impact will be felt for generations. While at Clean Water Action, she advocated for the passage of the Cesspool Phaseout Act in 2015. She created the Providence Stormwater Innovation Center which continues to showcase green stormwater practices to municipalities and engineers. Her biggest legacy will be the environmental leaders she helped to inspire, train, and nurture. She helped found the Land and Water Conservation Summit that brought together hundreds of Rhode Island environmental organizers each year for eighteen years.

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Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table.


Bethany Dickerson