The University of Rhode Island’s Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting yesterday announced the winners of its Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment — USA TODAY‘s Blake Morrison and Brad Heath. The reporters snagged the top prize, and $75,000, for their investigative series “The Smokestack Effect,” which examined industrial pollution near schools.

Three groups of reporters also received special merit awards and $5,000: Tad Fettig, Karena Albers and Veronique Bernard of kontentreal, for their six-part series about global transportation “e2: transport,” which ran on PBS; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger for their series “Chemical Fallout”; and author Andrew Nikiforuk for his book “Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent.”

The prize was founded by Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham in 2005 through the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, which supports environmental research and conservation programs around the world.

The prizes winners will give an overview of their award-winning work at the 2009 Grantham Prize Seminar in October in Washington, D.C.

Full release after the jump

Read more