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V.I. Wins Top Honors at NYC Earth Day Celebration

April 21, 2005 – A St. John resident and a St. Croix group were two of 25 individuals and groups receiving U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Environmental Achievers awards at a ceremony in New York Thursday. The ceremony celebrates the 35th anniversary of Earth Day.
Nicholas Drayton, who heads the Ocean Conservancy Virgin Islands field office on St. John, received the Individual Achiever award.
The Biodiesel Project Group of the St. Croix Vocational Diesel Technology Program at St. Croix Educational Complex got the award for Non-profit, Environmental or Community Group.
"These winners are environmental trail blazers who make our world a better place," the EPA's deputy regional administrator George Pavlou said. "By being leaders and making local changes, the award recipients demonstrate that we can all have a positive impact on the health of our nation's air, land and water."
The Barbados-born Drayton is a veteran of the Nature Conservancy’s St. Croix office as well as the British Virgin Islands National Parks Trust, where he served as director.
He opened the Virgin Islands office in 2001.
"I'm honored. I feel there are so many others who are more or equally deserving," Drayton said from New York.
He said being singled out embarrassed him.
"I'm doing what I believe in and what I enjoy doing," he said.
He recently helped author "Coral Reefs of the Virgin Islands," a book prepared to inform the government, election officials and decision makers about the territory's natural resources and the threats they face.(See "Despite Tremendous Losses to Fish and Coral, Hope Remains").
Drayton also worked on development of St. Croix's East End Marine Park.
"We're really proud of him and excited that he's been recognized by the EPA," Ocean Conservancy spokesman Tom McCann said.
Drayton also said he was named Person Of The Year in December by the V.I. Coastal Management Commission.
Little information was available from the EPA about the Biodiesel Project Group. Drayton said the group did not attend the ceremony.
According to the press release, the project was an outgrowth of a lesson-plan on diesel fuel systems.
Students became interested in alternative fuels and the effect on the environment, operation of the equipment and fuel mileage.
Their instructor encouraged a pilot program that included researching less polluting bio-fuels, their production and effects. This project led to a second in which the students created a biodiesel fuel.
According to the EPA, the project gained recognition locally and nationally.
The students continued the project with the design and construction of a biodiesel processor that can produce 10 gallons of biodiesel fuel in one cycle. The fuel was tested in several vehicles. The byproduct was used to make hand soap.
The EPA's Region 2 covers New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and seven Indian Nations.
The agency receives nominations for the awards from both inside and outside the EPA.
Last year, the St. Thomas-based Environmental Rangers, and St. Croix Central High School science and math teacher Ann Marie Gibbs won the awards.
In 2003, Carol Cramer-Burke of the St. Croix Environmental Association, Maho Bay Camps president Stanley Selengut and Island Resources Foundation received awards.
Mayra Suarez-Velez, who then served as the marine advisor at the University of the Virgin Islands, received the award in 2002.
In 2001, Julie Wright, who then worked for UVI's Cooperative Extension Service, UVI's Conservation Data Center, the Boys and Girls Clubs of St. Thomas, and the Clean and Preen Benner Bay summer project on St. Thomas received awards.

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