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It’s time once again for us as Americans to prepare to gather around the table to break bread with loved ones and offer thanks for our many blessings.

I firmly believe we all are more blessed than we acknowledge. The things we let ruin our days — a burnt meal, a leaky roof, a flat tire — are all small inconveniences related to the larger blessings of food, shelter and transportation.

I also believe our greatest blessings can often be found in our most difficult times, if we only take the time to acknowledge them. It is up to us to turn negatives into positives.

The first 20-plus years of my career in the environmental sector were focused on cleaning up after mistakes were made. My wife, Lorrie, and I decided we wanted to help prevent the environmental contamination from happening in the first place and in 2003 founded our company, Legacy Environmental Services, on that premise.

We now manage two nonprofit U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities coalitions, South Shore Clean Cities and Wisconsin Clean Cities.

Through the coalitions, many in the public, private and nonprofit sectors are helping achieve our mission of reducing dependence on imported oil, supporting U.S. energy security, increasing access to and use of alternative fuels and the vehicles they power, reducing harmful emissions, improving air quality and supporting local jobs.

Some of the work we do still involves helping to clean up after the fact, with our firm and coalition managing projects stemming from court orders, consent decrees and settlement agreements. We’ve seen the good that can come from it, with the installation of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the Region, the purchase of propane-powered school buses and the implementation of anti-idling ports for ambulances at hospital emergency rooms.

These projects helped offset the damage done in the past and created long-term, sustainable energy programs and fueling solutions that contribute to a better quality of life. They are the blessings found in the difficult times that turn the negatives into the positives.

We now find ourselves as a state in the position to do just that with the Volkswagen mitigation trust.

Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb last month signed an executive order outlining next steps for Indiana's $40.9 million portion of the Volkswagen environmental mitigation trust fund.

The fund was formed as the result of a settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Volkswagen for its violations of the U.S. Clean Air Act when the automaker rigged the emission control equipment on its diesel vehicles to operate only when emissions testing was taking place.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has developed a draft framework for the beneficiary mitigation plan, which is available for review and public comment. IDEM and an 11-member committee appointed by the governor will prepare and submit a final plan in the summer of 2018.

During this month of giving thanks, we should take a moment to be thankful that public comment is an integral part of the decision-making process. Like so many blessings, it is something most of us take for granted and unfortunately seldom participate in formally.

We all can have a say in turning this negative into a positive, in finding the blessings in this deceitful act. How can the state best use these nearly $41 million to help reduce diesel emissions?

IDEM wants your input. You can view the request for information, the draft framework for the beneficiary mitigation plan and learn how to submit your comments at

Make your voice heard, share your thoughts and help shape a cleaner, more sustainable future for all Hoosiers. Remember, it’s never too late to begin your legacy.

Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.