Airkeeper Awards

The annual Airkeeper Awards given by Clean Air Carolina recognize individuals and organizations working to improve air quality in North Carolina. Nominations for the 2018 Airkeeper Awards must be submitted by midnight, February 8, 2018. All nominations should include a brief statement (no more than 400 words) on how the nominee has worked to improve air quality in North Carolina.

There are five categories of the awards:

  • Student or school organization
  • Business
  • Organization
  • Individual
  • Policymaker

If you have any questions, please email

NC State Senator Angela R. Bryant

District 4 –Halifax, Vance, Nash, Wilson and Warren Counties

Senator Bryant is serving her sixth term in the legislature: three terms in the House and three in the Senate. She chairs the NC Legislative Black Caucus and serves on the Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources Committee, as well as its Appropriations Committee. She chairs the NC Delegation of the Roanoke River Bi-State Commission and co-founded the Land Loss Prevention Project at NC Central University Law School, working to help Black farmers retain ownership of family farms and practice sustainable agriculture. She has been a strong advocate for the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and for protecting North Carolina’s air quality monitoring network.

NC State Representative Chuck McGrady

District 117 – Henderson County

Prior to being elected to the North Carolina House in 2010, Representative Chuck McGrady of Henderson County was national director of the Sierra Club, ran a nature camp for boys in the North Carolina mountains for 17 years, and served on city and county boards. He serves on the House Environmental Review Commission and is Vice Chair of the Environment Committee, and has taken courageous and principled stands on retaining environmental protections.

Stephen Keener, MD, MPH

Mecklenburg County Medical Director

Dr. Keener has been Medical Director of the Mecklenburg County Health Department
for over 20 years. A long-time advocate for healthy air, he co-founded
Clean Air Carolina’s Medical Advocates for Healthy Air (MAHA) program
and supports education and advocacy efforts including the NC BREATHE
Conference. Dr. Keener has advocated for public health policies related to
ozone pollution, diesel emissions and coal ash waste. He has spoken at press
conferences, public hearings and professional meetings for cleaner air.

Devon Hall

Executive Director, Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH)

Co-founder and program manager of REACH, Devon Hall, Sr. has worked on numerous air and water quality research projects with UNC Chapel Hill and Johns Hopkins University, and secured environmental justice funding from the EPA. Located in the heart of hog country in Warsaw, NC, REACH has worked since 2002 to create safe spaces for community members to share their concerns about how the hog farms are impacting their health. In 2007, REACH coordinated a “mini hog farm” exhibit behind the NC Legislative Building, complete with a sprinkler spraying hog waste over the lawn.

St. Thomas More Green Knights

Inspired by Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si, eighth-graders Aiden Lynch, Ben Moody, Joseph Musso, Adam Lee, and Nathan Lissy of the Green Knights environmental club at St. Thomas More Catholic School in Chapel Hill worked to reduce emissions at their school by implementing an anti-idling campaign at the carpool lane and urging Chapel Hill Transit and the Town of Chapel Hill connect a bus route and bike paths to the school.

The Plant

The Plant, an eco-industrial park on the edge of Pittsboro in rural Chatham County, supports local sustainable businesses and provides educational and networking opportunities that engage the surrounding community. The brainchild of Lyle Estill, an eco-entrepreneur, The Plant operates a sustainably-run farm that grows ingredients for the businesses that share space in the park, including HOMS, a bio-herbicide and bio-pesticide manufacturer. The Plant demonstrates innovative technologies like solar double-cropping, which provides a longer growing season for cool-weather crops, and also hosts Piedmont Biofuels, a biofuel distributor, and Abundance NC, a nonprofit that will produce a Climate Carnival, featuring education, art and activism, in May 2017.

Roy Cooper
North Carolina Attorney General
Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper began his public service career in the NC House and Senate where he fought to increase teacher pay and reduce class sizes. He wrote North Carolina’s first children’s health insurance initiative. In 2000, Mr. Cooper was elected Attorney General, where he has opposed the efforts of utilities to raise rates on customers to benefit shareholders unnecessarily, and continues to oppose efforts of utilities to pass on to ratepayers the costs of expenditures like coal ash cleanup. As a legislator and as Attorney General, he has supported and successfully implemented North Carolina’s Clean Smokestacks Act, which he used to limit TVA’s pollution in our mountains, and the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. As Attorney General, he has awarded over $25 million in grants to groups across North Carolina including land trusts, soil and water conservation districts, and other environmental and conservation groups with a focus on acquiring, restoring and protecting lands to protect the state’s waterways and water quality.

James M. Kenny, MD
Physician Advisor, Inspection and Maintenance of Motor Vehicles, State of Massachusetts, Retired
Chief of Pulmonary Disease for the US Air Force Logistics Command, Retired
Member, Greenville, NC Environmental Advisory Commission
Advisory Board Member, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air

Dr. James M. Kenny is a retired pulmonologist. Prior to retiring to NC, he was the Physician Advisor for Inspection and Maintenance of Motor Vehicles for the state of Massachusetts and Chief of Pulmonary Disease for the United States Air Force Logistics Command. Dr. Kenny worked on joint public ventures with the Harvard School of Public Health and served as the media spokesperson for the Massachusetts Lung Association and other environmental groups. He has served on the Greenville Environmental Advisory Commission for the past six years. Dr. Kenny was an early supporter of retrofitting diesel school buses with filters to protect children’s health and continues to advocate for clean air in Pitt County and around the state as a MAHA Advisory Board member.

Nakisa Glover
Community Organizer, Justice Action Mobilization Network
Charlotte, NC

Nakisa Glover, is a community organizer who resides in Charlotte, NC. Her leadership skills have been acquired through years of corporate, community and service-based work. After many years in the insurance industry, Nakisa has found a passion for advocacy, activism and contributing positively to her community. She specializes in building strong relationships through collaboration. She is currently working as the National Field Coordinator for the Justice Action Mobilization Network (JAMN), to build a fusion movement for climate justice. She continues to build a network in the community that is ready to develop solutions to climate, social and economic justice by fostering relationships with small businesses, faith-based organizations, non-profits, elected officials, area colleges and high schools, to name a few. Through her work, she has gained experience in the areas of electoral and issue based advocacy. For more than two years she has led efforts to organize members of the community to take action around environmental issues, such as the EPA Clean Power Plan (Carbon Standards), climate action, clean water, offshore drilling and renewable energy. Nakisa is poised to be a change agent for justice in our community.

Novant Health is an integrated system of physician practices, outpatient clinics, and hospitals serving North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. Rodgers Leeper and Vannoy Construction are long-time Charlotte companies recognized nationally as top contractors in their field.  Novant Health engaged Clean Air Carolina (CAC) and Medical Advocates for Healthy Air (MAHA) last year to advise the hospital on ways to reduce diesel pollution at construction sites for their new hospital in Mint Hill and the new Women’s Center at the Matthews Medical Center in Mecklenburg County. Representatives from Novant’s Facilities Department and their contractors, Rodgers Leeper and Vannoy Construction, met with representatives of CAC and MAHA to develop a plan to track each piece of off-road construction equipment that came on site with the goal of prioritizing EPA Tier 3 and Tier 4 equipment which produces less pollution. Tier 4 level reduces particle pollution and nitrogen oxide, a component of smog, by about 90%. As a result of this partnership ____% of equipment was Tier # and Tier 4 and ____% was Tier 4. Rodgers Leeper and Vannoy installed anti-idling signage on the sites to keep unnecessary idling, another source of pollution, to a minimum. This is the first time a hospital in North Carolina has been proactive in reducing harmful diesel emissions on construction projects and their leadership will encourage others to “first do no harm”.

William G. Ross, Jr., JD
Attorney, Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP
Visiting Scholar, Duke University
Former Secretary of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (2001-2009)

Bill is a visiting scholar at Duke University and a natural resources policy consultant.  At Duke, Bill is part of a special partnership between the Nicholas School of the Environment and Duke’s cancer program.  The partnership explores environmental links to cancer in an effort to improve people’s health and the quality of the environment.  As a natural resources policy consultant, Bill has worked on innovative ways to conserve, protect, and sustain natural resources while also meeting economic, social, and national defense objectives.  Two examples of that work are America’s Longleaf, an initiative to restore longleaf pine across the southeast, and Veridea, the proposed sustainable, mixed-use, transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly development in Apex. Fourteen years ago as Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bill’s leadership was instrumental in getting the landmark Clean Smokestacks legislation passed by the North Carolina legislature.

Rep. Verla Insko
NC House of Representatives – District 56
Chapel Hill, NC

Representative Verla Insko has served in the North Carolina House since 1997. She represents the 56th House District which includes Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and part of Orange County. Her professional training is in biology, education, and public administration. Rep. Insko is a former junior high school science teacher and a retired health program administrator. She has a long history of public service including eight years on the Chapel Hill Carrboro Board of Education, three years on the Board of Directors of the Orange Water and Sewer Authority and four years on the Orange County Board of Commissioners. In addition, she has been a member and chair of many local and state wide nonprofit boards. Last summer Rep. Insko spoke eloquently at a public hearing in Chapel Hill about the important health benefits that would result from the EPA’s proposed rules to limit carbon pollution from power plants. She is a primary sponsor of the NC Efficient and Affordable Rates draft legislation and is a sponsor of HB 172 requiring best management practices to minimize leaks of air pollutants from activities associated with fracking.

Lisa Johnson, RRT, RCP, BAS, AE-C
Coordinator, Pediatric Asthma Program
Vidant Medical Center, Greenville, NC
Co-chair, Asthma Alliance of North Carolina
Advisory Board Member, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air

The coordinator of the Pediatric Asthma Program at Vidant Medical Center, Ms. Johnson has been a registered respiratory care practitioner for over 25 years. She found her passion in 1995 when she became part of the asthma program. She has initiated asthma camps (Camp Sea Breathe & Camp Coast) and assisted with the Air Quality Flag Program in several counties. Lisa has also served as co-chair for the NC Asthma Alliance for over six years and has created partnerships across the state to help reduce the burden of asthma. Lisa has been a stronger supporter of Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, an initiative of Clean Air Carolina and currently serves on its advisory board.

Jason West, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

J. Jason West is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. West is interested broadly in the relationships between air pollution and climate change, and their relevance for environmental science and policy. Using computer models, Dr. West is currently exploring the effects of changes in emissions on global air quality (focusing on ozone and particulate matter), the international transport of air pollutants, the health effects of air pollution, the effects of climate change on air quality, and the radiative forcing of climate. Recently, Dr. West led the first study of the co-benefits of greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation for air quality and human health to use global atmospheric models and future scenarios; results showed that the monetized co-benefits exceeded previous co-benefits estimates and exceeded the global costs of GHG mitigation in 2030 and 2050.

Sarah Behnke, Mecklenburg County, founder of We Love Mountain Island Lake, a grassroots group calling attention to air and water pollution from Duke Energy’s Riverbend coal plant, built in 1929 without any modern emission controls. Riverbend’s coal ash ponds are also designated as “high hazard” ponds threatening Mt. Island Lake, the source of drinking water for the Charlotte area. Duke Energy retired Riverbend in 2012.

Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), Chapel Hill, Attorney Kym Hunter accepted an Airkeeper Award on behalf of SELC, a regional environmental legal advocacy organization which strengthens laws, makes government agencies do their job, and, when necessary, goes to court to stop environmental abuses or to set far-reaching precedents. SELC has represented Clean Air Carolina in lawsuits against the Monroe Bypass in Union County and the Garden Parkway in Gaston County.

Dr. Bob Parr, Wilmington, an emergency room physician and advisory board member of Medical Advocates for Healthy Air. Bob was a leading medical voice opposing the proposed Titan Cement plant, which would have been a major source of toxic air pollution in New Hanover County. Bob’s passion for clean air has him speaking regularly at public hearings, press conferences, and at the legislature working to educate the public and policy makers about the dangerous health impacts of air pollution.

Bill Toole, Belmont, attorney and Belmont City Council member who led the effort to stop the Garden Parkway toll road in Gaston County. His highly effective public awareness campaign, Stop the Toll Road, collected over 7,000 petition signatures against the toll road. Petitions were delivered to the NC Turnpike Authority and the town councils of Gastonia and Belmont. The campaign was successful and the parkway project cancelled. Bill also led the effort to have Belmont become a cycling destination by working with local officials to create a bicycle master plan.

Nancy Bryant, Stanly County, one of the founders and the first volunteer director of Carolinas Clean Air Coalition in 2003 which became what is now Clean Air Carolina. Under Nancy’s leadership, the first of many grants from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation was received to hire our first paid employee. Nancy’s passion for clean air and protection of the planet comes from her strong faith and commitment to future generations. She continues to serve as an advisor to Clean Air Carolina after leaving the organization to move to Stanly County in 2006.

Dr. Larry Raymond, Charlotte, pulmonologist and early advisor to Clean Air Carolina who led the creation of Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, a statewide alliance of medical and health professionals calling for stronger policies to protect air quality. Larry’s gentle voice combined with a powerful message about the damage air pollution does to children’s health was instrumental in getting the attention of school officials to clean up older diesel buses.

Myers Park Baptist Church EarthKeepers, Charlotte, a faith-based environmental stewardship ministry which encourages interest in and understanding of the relationship between spirituality, ecology and their church’s practices. EarthKeepers had their church certified as a wildlife habitat and was responsible for having solar panels installed on the first church in Charlotte, leading the way for more congregations to get involved in implementing sustainable practices.

Rep. Ruth Samuelson, Charlotte, a strong supporter of environmental causes and a children’s health advocate, Rep. Samuelson spearheaded legislation with a $2.5 million appropriation to install filters on diesel school buses in 24 counties, ensuring children had a healthier ride to school. Rep. Samuelson, who died in 2017, was one of the first Prius drivers in Charlotte, and endorsed legislation for clean energy and protection of our air and water. She was a bridge builder in the legislature who could bring policy makers from both parties together for the issues she believed in.

Charlotte Energy Solutions, Charlotte, a small business that helps people find ways to reduce the carbon footprint using renewable energy solutions such as solar energy, bio-fuels and tankless water heaters. They are a good source for rain barrels, green paper products, and other environmental-friendly products. The business was an early promoter of bio-diesel for use in cars and trucks and helped individuals convert to 100% bio-diesel canola oil for fuel.