The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today announced that it is glad to recognize the six Rhode Island recipients of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Merit Awards, given to those who have made outstanding contributions to protect New England’s environment.

Awardees include four individuals and two organizations:

  • Judith Swift, retiring director of the URI Coastal Institute, a leader and interdisciplinary collaborator whose work over decades helped power the cleanup of Narragansett Bay
  • George Loomis, with the URI Cooperative Extension, who leveraged the latest scientific knowledge to advance the field of onsite wastewater treatment systems
  • Meg Kerr, a fierce environmental advocate who served for many leading organizations including the Audubon Society of Rhode Island and is particularly passionate about pollinators
  • Brian Byrnes, Providence Parks and Recreation’s deputy director, who has helped improve water quality in watersheds statewide by showcasing green infrastructure at the Providence Stormwater Innovation Center
  • The Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, a key DEM partner in meeting the carbon-reduction mandates of the landmark Act on Climate law and, in 2021, loaned more than $54 million to finance clean water and drinking water projects, supporting thousands of jobs; and
  • WaterFire Providence, the visionary arts organization led by Barnaby Evans and Peter Mello whose displays on the Providence River draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to the capital city every year and has been an exemplar in using public art to unite people to try to solve difficult urban problems.

“EPA is proud to recognize and congratulate Rhode Island awardees, for their great accomplishments and their continued efforts towards combatting climate change, bringing cleaner air and water to neighborhoods, and ensuring our underserved communities’ voices are being heard,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “Their ingenuity and commitment truly make a difference in our New England communities.”

“DEM’s almost 400 employees join me in offering our enthusiastic congratulations and thanks to everyone that’s being recognized by EPA Region I this year,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. By making excellence their habit, the individual and institutional honorees have made a difference – and made Rhode Island a cleaner, greener, fairer, better place to be.”

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

Belmore currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals. He previously served on the Board of Lucy's Hearth and the Arts & Cultural Alliance for Newport County.

Belmore and his wife, Jen, currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, a move they made in 2021. Read more about that here -

Belmore visits Newport every couple of weeks to support the 12+ paid contributors What'sUpNewp has on the ground across Rhode Island, a place he called home for 39 years.

Belmore is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, Society of Professional Journalists, and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.

In 2020, Belmore was named Member of the Year by LION and won the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Newport County's Dominque Award.
Belmore can be contacted at and 401-662-1653.