THE NATuRAL RESouRcES Defense Council (NRDC) describes itself as "the nation's most effective environmental action organization," and indicates that the world's foremost environmental problem is global warming. In 2007, the NRDC was a founder and organizer of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of environmental organizations and corporations advocating legislative action to address global warming. Incorporated in New York in 1970, the NRDC also has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Beijing. Frances Beinecke was named president in January 2007.
According to its mission statement, the NRDC strives "to protect nature in ways that advance the long-term welfare of present and future generations." In addition to affirming the "integral place of human beings in the environment," and decrying the "pattern of disproportionate environmental burdens borne by people of color and others who face social or economic inequities," it emphasizes a way of life "that can be sustained indefinitely without fouling or depleting the resources that support all life on Earth." The group began as a public interest lobbying organization funded by the Ford Foundation, and now focuses on litigation and legislation involving protection of the environment. Its program foci include Health, Nuclear, Land and Forests, Urban, Climate, Air and Energy, Water and Oceans, International, Market Transformation, Advocacy Campaigns, and Legislation and Litigation.
NRDC has frequently appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court, and has been involved in federal, state, and local litigation. NRDC was partially responsible for passage of the Clean Water Act, which allowed citizens to sue water polluters directly. Removal of lead from gasoline and the increase of energy efficiency in home appliances have also resulted from NRDC's actions. A 1976 court battle resulted in limitations on water pollution for 24 major industries, and, in 1978, a successful lawsuit cut sulfur dioxide emissions by a million tons annually. Legal action, in 1984, forced the U.S. Department of Energy's nuclear weapons facilities to comply with environmental laws. Two other lawsuits forced major corporations, Bethlehem Steel in 1987, and ARCO and Texaco in 1993, to pay stiff fines for water pollution.
In October 2007, 11 of its 160 program staff members worked in its Climate Center. Invited by the U.S. House to testify on global warming legislation, the NRDC responded with substantial scientific data and an offer to work with the government on solutions "to prevent the worst global warming impacts, meet other objectives such as reducing our oil dependence, and promote continued strong economic growth." The NRDC helped craft and pass California's landmark Global Warming Solutions Act that requires substantial reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It also was a party to the Massachusetts vs. EPA case, in which the Supreme Court, in 2007, affirmed the EPA's ability to regulate GHG emissions. The group also gives attention to the social effects of global warming.
The NRDC funded a 2006 study, by the Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assessment, which determined that producing and burning ethanol is better for the environment than producing and burning gasoline, and that celluosic ethanol has a substantial advantage over corn ethanol. The NRDC's suggested program for cutting GHG emissions by more than half (with approximate percentages of total reductions) involves boosting energy efficiency (41 percent), building better cars (24 percent), increased use of renewable and biofuels (19 percent), and scrubbing carbon from fossil fuels (16 percent).
The NRDC spends 80.3 percent of its budget on its programs and services, and uses 8.1 percent of its functional expenses on administrative costs. The group uses 11.5 percent of its expenses to raise funds, and spends 9 cents to raise each $1 it receives. NRDC has five top administrators, and over 300 employees. In 2005, its then-president, John Adams, received $297,140 in compensation, which was .51 percent of the group's total expenses. According to the Better Business Bureau, the NRDC meets the Standards for Charity Accountability.
See ALSo: Environmental Defense; Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs); World Resources Institute.
BIBLIOGRAphY. Natural Resources Defense Council, www. nrdc.org (cited October 2007); U.S. Climate Action Partnership, www.us-cap.org (cited September 2007).
Pamela Rands Gordon Rands Western Illinois University
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