Environment and Natural Resources Division Recognizes Employees for Outstanding Service at Annual Awards Ceremony

The Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) held its annual awards ceremony to highlight the past year’s achievements. 

The ceremony, which was conducted virtually via a video celebration, recognized the outstanding work of many of the division’s attorneys and staff in the realm of civil and criminal environmental enforcement, defense of agency rulemakings, support of priority infrastructure projects, and other areas. 

The 2020 Muskie-Chafee Award was presented posthumously to Karen M. Wardzinski, former Chief of ENRD’s Law and Policy Section.  Karen was an exceptional legal mind, and great friend and colleague to all of those at ENRD until her recent passing.  The 2020 Tom C. Clark II Award – which recognizes outstanding performance as trial counsel and mentoring – was presented to Michael C. Augustini, Senior Attorney in ENRD’s Environmental Defense Section.  ENRD also recognized 58 other employees, contractors, and partners who made superior contributions to the division’s mission over the past year, including the Pandemic Network Team, led by IT Director Richard W. Tayman, which quickly stood up a near fail-proof infrastructure upon which ENRD’s workforce operated during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The division highlighted the recent lodging of the settlement in the Daimler-Mercedes civil enforcement case, in which German automaker Daimler AG and its American subsidiary agreed to pay $875 million in civil penalties and approximately $70 million in other penalties for alleged emissions cheating.  Furthermore, ENRD recognized teams of lawyers who counseled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other client agencies to prepare the Waters of the United States (WOTUS), Affordable Clean Energy (ACE), new National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, and other exceptionally complex and significant rules for legal challenges.

During the virtual ceremony, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill praised the staff’s commitment in the face of unprecedented challenges over the past year stating, “You worked tirelessly to adapt to the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. You continued to execute our mission to uphold this Nation’s environmental laws, and their reforms, protect its wildlife and natural resources, and defend the public fisc.  At the same time, many of you managed to care for high-risk family members, learn new ways of remote litigation, and run virtual learning academies for your kids at home. I am proud to say you did so without compromising the quality of our work in the slightest.” 

The division’s virtual award ceremony is available on-line at: https://youtu.be/lyeRjDiJ2A8.

A video presentation of the 2020 Muskie-Chafee Award and honoring the career and life of service of Karen M. Wardzinski is available on-line at: https://youtu.be/SDtvME_SnSA.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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Author: November 2, 2020

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