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LOWELL, Mass. ߝ UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan announced that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has designated $1.3 million in federal recovery act funds to keep the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell running through the end of the current fiscal year.
“Governor Patrick and the Legislature stepped up the plate to ensure that TURI can continue to help reduce the use of toxics in the Commonwealth,” says Meehan. “The one-time federal funding will allow UMass Lowell to cover the costs of the institute this year, without disinvesting in our core mission ߝ providing high quality, affordable higher education.”
“We are pleased that the Toxics Use Reduction Institute will serve as a model environmental program whose research and laboratories complement the mission of UMass Lowell,” says Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville. “We are especially pleased that we can provide federal stimulus funds to cover TURI’s expenses this year in order to save higher education jobs and preserve a model program.”
Among the legislators championing separate state funding for TURI were Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton; Rep. Jay Kaufman, House chairman of the Joint Committee on Revenue; and Rep. Frank Smizik, chairman of the House Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change.
“TURI is an effective program that has helped make Massachusetts families safer and provided a competitive advantage for local businesses for over two decades, which is why it is so critical we provide the funds necessary to keep it going,” says Sen. Eldridge. “The more we learn about the impact of hazardous substances on public health, the more we need the Toxics Use Reduction Institute, and I will be working to ensure its important work can continue.”
“I’m thrilled to hear that TURI at UMass Lowell will remain operational through the end of FY10,” says Rep. Kaufman. “To have a sustainable future, we need the critical work that this essential program provides to continue, as our future, and our children’s future, demands no less.”
“I am pleased hear that UMass Lowell has received federal stimulus money to continue the Toxics Use Reduction Institute for another year,” says Rep. Smizik. “In addition to protecting public health and the environment, TURI has developed green solutions in the chemical industry, saving businesses in the Commonwealth money and improving their international competitiveness. I hope we can ensure TURI’s continued success by finding a longer-term solution to fund it.”
“We are committed to working with the business and environmental communities, as well as legislators, to evaluate the services the institute provides and come up with a workable plan for funding it beyond this fiscal year,” says TURI Director Michael Ellenbecker.
Although TURI is part of the UMass Lowell campus, it has been funded separately by the state since its inception in 1990. Massachusetts businesses that use toxic substances pay fees to the Commonwealth, in essence covering the costs of the program. In 2008, $3.2 million in fees were collected from 550 facilities. This year’s state budget requires that UMass cover its costs.
“I’m relieved that the stimulus funds will carry TURI through this year. Nevertheless, the environment is not something we can decide to protect one year, and forget about the next,” says George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “We look forward to a robust discussion with state leaders about how to fund it well into the future.”
“We pay our fees and expect services in return, as TURA mandates. Restoring funding to TURI is critical to our business, especially now during this tough economic time and with fierce competition throughout the world in our industry,” says David Kiddoo, global business manager of AlphaGary Corp. in Leominster. “TURI provides the research, networks, and grants that help us develop environmentally-friendly technologies so that we can better compete internationally. The state needs to realize how important this work is to the manufacturing sector in Massachusetts.”
Since the inception of the TURA program, TURI has helped Massachusetts companies reduce the amount of toxic chemicals used in manufacturing processes by 41 percent.
Meehan had announced in August that UMass Lowell would only be able to fund the institute through December, if no outside funding were secured. Thirty-nine representatives and 13 senators signed letters to their leadership requesting separate state funds for TURI, and UMass President Jack Wilson helped work out an agreement with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education for the Education Stabilization funds. The federal stimulus legislation ensured that the stabilization funds were available.
“Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Sen. John Kerry all supported the economic stimulus bill, which also helped save the program,” says Meehan.
“The stimulus package was meant to preserve and create jobs in this difficult economic climate, especially in innovative industries and fields that will long benefit our community and state, such as education and the environment,” says Rep. Tsongas. “I want to thank Governor Patrick and our local legislators for recognizing the importance of TURI to our region and its contributions to creating a safer, cleaner environment in our state.”
UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. UML offers its 13,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu.