CLF and Anthony Iarrapino awarded premier honor by the Charles River Watershed Association | Conservation Law Foundation

CLF and Anthony Iarrapino awarded premier honor by the Charles River Watershed Association

John Kassel


It’s a pleasure to report that on Wednesday, at the Charles River Watershed Association’s annual meeting, CLF was awarded The Anne M. Blackburn Award – CRWA’s premier honor.  As Executive Director Bob Zimmerman put it, they were intending to recognize a person and an organization.

That deserving person is CLF Senior Attorney Anthony Iarrapino.

Anthony was recognized for his terrific work in our case against the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, which settled last summer after years of preparation, litigation and negotiation, on extremely favorable terms. Those terms will catapult Boston (finally!) into the forefront of U. S. cities taking a creative approach to controlling stormwater runoff in ways that restore our environment, foster healthy communities, save money and create jobs.

Like all of our work, the BWSC case was a team effort, but every major project is driven by a person who owns it. He or she is supervised from above, influenced from many directions and supported by a team of colleagues, but that person is the captain, if you will. The buck stops with him and he deserves the lion’s share of the credit for success.

We had that person on the BWSC case. He immersed himself in the case, took on one of Boston’s largest and most powerful law firms, dealt gracefully with the Boston politics, held the line when necessary and negotiated very effectively. It has given all of us great professional and personal pride to see Anthony grow in stature and experience in this case, and this was part of the reason that we recently promoted him to the position of Senior Attorney, a well-deserved honor that he has earned through very hard work.

CLF was also recognized for the decades of work we have done alongside the CRWA – and other partners on the Charles, the Mystic and other rivers in Eastern Massachusetts – to begin to make real the lofty promises of the Clean Water Act.  Peter Shelley was rightly called out for his career of work on these issues, as well as Chris Kilian (who personally received the Blackburn Award two years ago) for directing (and performing) this work for so many years.

But as creative, persistent and effective as we’ve been for almost 50 years in making the admirable progress we’ve made, we’ll need to be far more creative, persistent and effective to meet the challenges that our changing climate will throw at us.

We’ve spent 50 years keeping pollution from our communities out of Boston Harbor; in the future, we also have to keep Boston Harbor out of our communities – like the North End and Chelsea, Everett and Back Bay. How do we do that?

We’ve spent 50 years to get to the point of beginning to grapple with runoff from storms as we have known them;  how do we do that while coping with 30-50% more precipitation, more extreme storm events, and increased unpredictability?

These challenges are big and systemic. They require us to make technical, strategic and cultural changes.  And we have to make them, in order to continue our collective legacy of excellent work that addresses our most pressing needs with great effectiveness.

Everyone in the room on Wednesday night seemed to “get” this, and also to agree that the community of groups that have worked together so effectively on these issues in Eastern Massachusetts (including Charles River Watershed Association, the Mystic River Watershed Association, and our partners at Alternatives for Community and Environment, La Comunidad Inc., Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, Tri_City Community Action Program, and Groundwork Somerville) forged by the trials of the past, has the stuff it will take to meet the challenges of the future.  Of all the regions in this country, we in New England are most likely to get it right.  We have the track record of success, we have the creativity and persistence, and most importantly we have a strong community committed to the cause.

As we in New England grapple with these important challenges, I am confident that CLF will continue to be in the middle of it all. And I hope that you will stand with us in this work.

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