Virginia endowment honors Bay Journal Media

A view of the confluence of the James and Appomattox rivers, which have improved in water quality since the Kepone disaster 40 years ago. (Whitney Pipkin)

Bay Journal Media was one of 22 organizations recognized as one of the Virginia Environmental Endowment’s “Partners in Excellence” during its 40th anniversary celebration in Richmond on Oct. 5.

The VEE said the Bay Journal, the organization’s primary publication, “is recognized as the media voice for news about the Chesapeake Bay.” The endowment has provided financial support for increased coverage of Virginia issues in the Bay Journal, and has helped launch its recent Local Government Edition, which provides Bay-related information to local officials throughout the watershed.

The endowment was established in 1977 in the wake of the Kepone disaster in Hopewell, VA, which left parts of the James River contaminated with the pesticide.

As part of the settlement against Allied Chemical for its role in the disaster, U.S. District Court Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. set aside $8 million to create the VEE and appointed its first board of directors and all subsequent board members until his death in 2005. This was the first time a federal court converted a pollution fine into a funding program to help the environment.

Since its inception, the endowment has made more than 1,400 grants to nearly 500 organizations totaling $28.9 million and leveraging more than $80 million in additional environmental spending. It has underwritten numerous educational and restoration projects and helped to launch several environmental organizations in the state. It also has created scholarships for high school students to attend universities, funded research projects and sponsored surveys to track the attitudes of Virginians toward environmental issues.

The “Partners in Excellence” were selected in recognition of their contributions to Virginia’s environment from among the many organizations, universities, government agencies, schools and communities that have been supported by the endowment over the last four decades.

Organizations recognized (by category) included:

• Water Quality Improvement: Elizabeth River Project; Friends of the Rappahannock, James River Association; the Southern Environmental Law Center; Virginia Association of Soil and Water; and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

• Chesapeake Bay Restoration: Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay; Bay Journal Media; and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

• Land Conservation: The Chesapeake Conservancy; Land Trust Alliance; The Nature Conservancy; Valley Conservation Council; VIRGINIAforever; and Virginia’s United Land Trusts.

• Environmental Education and Public Awareness: The Institute for Environmental Negotiation at UVA; Virginia Conservation Network; Virginia Junior Academy of Science;

and the Virginia Military Institute Center for Leadership and Ethics

• Emerging Issues: Virginia Coastal Policy Center (The College of William & Mary Law School); Wetlands Watch: and the West Virginia Rivers Coalition

For details on the VEE’s 40th anniversary and more on all honorees, visit

Karl Blankenship is editor-at-large of the Bay Journal. You can reach him at

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