2020’s largest environmental gathering in Indiana honors key grassroots leaders

Last Updated on November 22, 2020 by Hoosier Environmental Council

(INDIANAPOLIS) – Hoosiers from across Indiana gathered together for the first-ever virtual, and thirteenth annual, Greening the Statehouse (GTS).  GTS has historically been Indiana’s largest annual gathering of environmental-minded Hoosiers.  The conference, hosted by the Hoosier Environmental Council, aims to prepare attendees to be as knowledgeable and as skilled as possible heading into the new legislative session.  One of the most popular elements of the conference is the “GTS Awards,” which recognizes exemplary grassroots leaders and grassroots organizations from across Indiana. 

“We’re thrilled that we could honor such tremendous community-minded grassroots leaders and grassroots organizations from literally six different regions of our state.  It is a testament to the sincere commitment to environmental protection that exists throughout our state.  The grassroots activists and leaders that we recognized all reflect incredible persistence, compassion for their fellow citizens, and an intelligence to do things right and with great impact.  We are truly grateful for their selfless contributions,” remarked Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. 

The 2020 GTS Award Winners are the following… 

1.) East Central Indiana 

Barbara Sha Cox (Richmond) – Lifetime Achievement Award, for building an all-volunteer, statewide grassroots organization aimed at helping citizens across Indiana protect themselves from factory farm pollution   

2.) Northwest Central Indiana 

-Bryon Petschow – Volunteer of the Year (West Lafayette), for playing an instrumental research role in the creation of a landmark coal ash white paper that illuminates that 90%+ of coal ash sites in Indiana have contaminated the groundwater beneath those sites 

-Cass County Concerned Citizens (Logansport), for their remarkable ability to organize thousands online, and carry out a multi-prong campaign (in the public square, in the media, and before local government bodies) aimed at stopping a lead and mercury polluting factory from being built in their community 

3.) Northwest Indiana 

Just Transition NWI – Sustainable Champion of the Year (Michigan City), for leading a broad-based coalition, with an on-the-ground and high impact online campaign, that succeeded in securing stronger protections from coal ash pollution 

4.) Southeast Indiana: 

Christine Mueller (Lawrenceburg) – Volunteer of the Year, for working tirelessly to try to reduce the threat of coal ash contaminating the drinking water resources of her community 

5.) Southwest Indiana: 

Southwestern Citizens for Quality of Life (Dale) – The Mal Atherton Award, for galvanizing a tremendous number of people to push back against a proposed, massive fossil fuel plant that would be within a mile of a nursing home and school, and would generate 2.2 million tons of carbon pollution per year

SOURCE: News release from Cass County Citizens Coalition

The Cass County Citizens’ Coalition is receiving an award from the Hoosier Environmental Council.  During the HEC’s annual conference, the largest gathering of environmentalists in the state, the Citizens’ Coalition will be honored for their work protecting Cass County’s health, environment, and economy.   

The Coalition, popularly known as “CCCC”, formed to stop heavy industry from building in Cass County.  The county is primarily agricultural and light industry, and citizens objected to the pollution that heavy industry brings.  

It has been an uphill battle and the CCCC recently suffered a setback when county officials approved $87 million in bonds for the project.  IDEM has just issued their draft permit, and CCCC’s experts will be studying the draft and preparing comments.  Several lawsuits may result in better pollution controls and monitoring.  Bake sales, donations from local restaurants, and a golf tournament have raised over $90,000 for hiring expert witnesses and lawyers.   

CCCC members hope to continue on as a force for good.  CCCC member Mercedes Brugh commented, “This is not the last time a predatory developer will target Cass County.  We need to plan for the kind of development that will keep Cass County a place where people want to live, work, and play.”