News Release, Indiana Department of Environmental Management:

HAMMOND, IND.  The Northwest Indiana Partners for Clean Air honored regional air quality leaders and winners of three college scholarships at the organization’s annual awards luncheon held at the Hammond Marina on Friday.

“On behalf of Partners for Clean Air, we congratulate all of the recipients on your awards and scholarships,” said Michele Murday-Pariso, director of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Northwest Regional Office. “Through their advocacy, each recipient has encouraged others to support initiatives or projects that lead to cleaner air throughout our region.”

Four recipients received awards for voluntary actions taken to improve air quality in 2023. The Partners for Clean Air Steering Committee selected winners from nominations submitted earlier this year.

Telamon Energy received the Business Award for installing over 255,000 kWdc of solar energy across the United States. Telamon Energy is an energy consultant that leads the Midwest in delivering facility-based, community, and utility-scale energy solutions. The company uses their platform as a solar power developer to raise awareness for clean energy and to help clients in Northwest Indiana transition to more efficient energy solutions.

Dave Dorsett, EV Account Manager for Kerlin Bus Sales and Leasing, Inc. received the Industrial Award for his work on behalf of the Clean School Bus Initiative. Dave has been instrumental in assisting school bus directors make the switch to electric and clean diesel busses by providing expertise and educational resources to schools, fleet managers, teachers, and parents.

The City of Valparaiso’s City Services Department received the Municipal Award for leading a their “Sustainable Solar Project” which added 772 solar panels to the City of Valparaiso facilities and saved taxpayers more than $5.2 million in electrical costs by providing clean, renewable solar power. The panels are installed on top of three treatment plants, the City Services building and the historic City Hall. Visitors to City Hall can see real-time energy use data and may notice the metering moving backwards when more energy is being generated and harvested than is being used. To see the project in action, view the video at

Bob Huffman from Munster received the Mark Siminski Bicycle Award for his advocacy efforts. Bob has been a staunch advocate for safe bicycling in Northwest Indiana for over 30 years. In 2004, Bob was one of the founding members of the Calumet Citizens for Connecting Communities (C4) which was created specifically to address the need for increased pedestrian and bicycle improvements. Over the years, Bob attended public meetings in a number of regional communities to promote the quality-of-life benefits of trail development. Bob also created his own website to inform visitors about the best places to bike in Northwest Indiana, which eventually led to the creation the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s (NIRPC) first non-motorized bicycle map in 2007. Bob has continued to advocate for better and safer non-motorized transportation in Lake, Porter and La Porte counties, as well as his hometown of Munster, Ind.

In addition to awards, three winners each received a $2,500 scholarship in the competitive essay contest judged by Partners for Clean Air Scholarship Committee members. Since 2020, Partners for Clean Air has awarded over $32,500 to 23 local students to help support their post-secondary educational efforts. This year’s scholarship winners are:

  • Melanie DeVries of Hanover Central High School. Melanie plans to study Cardiovascular Technology at University of South Carolina – Columbia.
  • Melissa Cook of Chesterton High School. Melissa plans to study Environmental Engineering at Purdue University.
  • Mackenzie Calinski of Lake Central High School. Melissa plans to study Environmental Science at Indiana University Bloomington.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management Commissioner Brian Rockensuess provided an agency update during his keynote address.

“Each year, businesses, industries, government entities, community groups and individuals voluntarily go above and beyond regulatory requirements in an effort to improve air quality in Northwest Indiana,” said Rockensuess. “Not only are they improving our environment, they are also investing in our future.”

The Partners for Clean Air Luncheon and Award Ceremony was sponsored by Partners for Clean Air Platinum Members (Drive Clean Indiana, GAF, Gary SouthShore RailCats, Northwestern Regional Planning Commission and Telamon Energy); Gold Members (Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., Metro Recycling and NiSource); Silver Members (Hammond Port Authority, Keramida, Inc. and Linde); and Bronze Members (LaPorte County Health Department, Lochmueller Group, Inc., Porter County Health Department, and the Union Township Trustee’s Office).

Northwest Indiana Partners for Clean Air presented awards and scholarships to air quality leaders at its annual awards luncheon held at the Clipper Room Banquet Facility at the Hammond Marina on Friday, June 14, 2024. Pictured are (l-r): Charles Breitenfeldt, IDEM Northwest Regional Office (NWRO) Deputy Director; Michele Murday Pariso, IDEM NWRO Director; Dave Dorsett, Kerlin Bus Sales and Leasing EV Account Manager; Greyson Lemmons, 2022 PCA Scholarship winner, Melissa Cook, 2024 PCA Scholarship winner; Scott Nelson, Telamon Energy Director of Development; and Brian Rockensuess, IDEM Commissioner.

About Partners for Clean Air: Partners for Clean Air is a coalition of northwest Indiana businesses, industries, local governments, community groups and individuals committed to improving overall air quality and public health through voluntary actions. Members of the Partners for Clean Air Program develop Air Quality Action Plans designed to be implemented on Air Quality Action Days as a way of reducing harmful pollutants.