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State officials came to Ghent Friday morning to designate North American Stainless with the top status in a voluntary environmental improvement and protection program.
NAS is now a master in the Kentucky Excellence in Environmental Leadership Program for “going above and beyond compliance,” Kenya Stump, environmental assistance manager with the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, told a group of company employees gathered for the ceremony.
KY EXCEL is a voluntary environmental leadership program that offers “unique opportunities for public, corporate and private sectors to improve Kentucky’s diverse and wonderful environment,” according to the Department for Environmental Protection website. Participants must develop and implement a master plan on environmental issues, conduct annual community projects and demonstrate environmental achievement.
“I know how hard it is on a day-to-day basis just to meet your compliance requirements. And you all have a strong commitment to being 100 percent compliant, 100 percent of the time,” Stump, who manages the KY EXCEL program, said. “I know what a challenge that can be, especially in a time when economic conditions are bad, environmental departments are sometimes cut.”
The stainless steel manufacturer also won praise for its work in leadership on environmental protection from Aaron B. Keatley, deputy commissioner of the Department for Environmental Protection.
“So often when our agency shows up at facilities it’s not to say thank you, it’s to say are you doing good enough,” Keatley said. “Today we get to come here and say you are not only doing good enough, you are doing better than we need.”
He said it is important to have companies such as NAS step forward as good corporate citizens.
“We get to become partners with you instead of obstacles to you getting your jobs done,” Keatley said.
Keatley presented a certificate to NAS president and chief executive officer Cristobal Fuentes.
NAS has a long list of accomplishments on environmental protection and improvement, Stump said.
“When I looked back since you became a member in 2007, it’s pretty outstanding some of your accomplishments,” she said. “Over 200 project hours devoted to above and beyond compliance. The equivalent of over 300 tons of material has either been diverted and recycled.”
Stump said the company has also demonstrated a commitment to environmental education in the community and to the Kentucky Recycling Interest Group.
She praised NAS Environmental Manager Maria Eichelberger for her commitment to KY EXCEL.
“It is a great accomplishment that you have now reached master level membership,” she said.
There are about 180 members participating in the KY EXCEL program, Stump said. The agency website shows that only 40 of those have attained master status.
“You are in a very elite group,” she said.
Keatley congratulated NAS on the commitments the company has made, the recycling it does in Kentucky and for the way it conducts its business.
“We only come out to facilities that have reached the highest level and that is master,” he said. “You are in a very, very small group. And for a facility of this size that’s a remarkable thing, especially the kind of industry that you are.”
To become a master in KY EXCEL, a company has to do five projects a year that are beyond compliance to state environmental laws, have a three year clean check of environmental compliance and undergo and audit of its environmental management system. Stump said NAS met all the requirements.
For a facility the size of NAS, she said this it is a major achievement to come back with a clean compliance slate for three years. “All the projects they do are not mandatory, they are above and beyond,” Stump said.
Among the projects that NAS undertakes are the Carroll County River Sweep and educational programs with fourth grade students each year.
Eichelberger said that she and her team have worked hard to achieve the master level in KY EXCEL
“It’s been my goal since we joined,” she said. “I am just ecstatic that we were finally able to meet it.”
Two other local companies also participate in the KY EXCEL program. According to the agency’s website, Dow Corning and Kentucky Utilities Ghent plant are also at the master level of the program.