Building A Sustainable Future Today 2013 annual report
NRDC protects our families,
our communities, and our global commons.
We tell the truth. We hold polluters
accountable. And we craft solutions
for a more sustainable future. Weâ€™ve been doing it for four decades.
And nobody, anywhere,
does it better.
Letters from the Board Chairman, President, and Executive Director of NRDC.......... 2 Whatâ€™s at Stake................................................................................................................ 4 Making Life Safer, Healthier............................................................................................ 6 Building Better Communities.......................................................................................... 8 Setting the National Agenda for Clean Air and Clean Power ...................................... 10 Protecting Our Oceans, Wild Places, and Wildlife........................................................ 12 Saving Wildlife and Wild Places.................................................................................... 14 NRDCâ€™s International Reach.......................................................................................... 16 Donors............................................................................................................................ 18 NRDC Events.................................................................................................................. 30 NRDC 2013 Financial Statement and Report.............................................................. 34 Board of Trustees........................................................................................................... 36
he environmental movement has made great strides since the Cuyahoga River caught fire nearly 50 years ago. Our air is cleaner, our water is safer, and our landscapes are better protected. And yet new threats have emerged that weren’t even on the radar screen when that river blazed. Today, more than 1 in 20 Americans live within a mile of a fracking site. Everyday products like shampoo and children’s toys contain toxic chemicals that interfere with hormone functioning and contribute to cancer. And cities across the nation are being hit by extreme drought, storms, and heat made worse by climate change. People want to know their families are safe and their communities will thrive. I am so proud to be a part of an institution that makes that possible. NRDC protects people’s health and unleashes innovation. In the past year alone, we secured stronger protections against smog. We created the Community Fracking Defense Project to empower towns and local governments to protect themselves from reckless fracking. And we designed energy efficiency standards for appliances that will save consumers billions of dollars a year. These and countless other NRDC victories will improve people’s lives and protect the natural systems we depend upon. We can do this because NRDC has the best staff in the business. Our experts provide policy solutions and uncompromising science. They are also uncommonly tenacious: They take on big polluters and fight until they prevail. These traits allow NRDC to create healthier, more livable communities for all.
Daniel R. Tishman Chairman
NRDC led an all-hands-on-deck campaign to save Alaska’s Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine—one that has now outlasted the CEOs of two of the international mining giants behind the project. BioGems Defenders sent more than 267,000 public comments to the EPA calling on the agency to stop the Pebble Mine, and NRDC attorneys handdelivered 100,000 “Stop Pebble” petitions from our members to the White House. 2
n a hot and humid afternoon last June, we traveled to Georgetown University to hear President Obama announce a bold plan for addressing climate change. Halfway through the speech, the president outlined an approach to cutting carbon pollution from power plants that sounded familiar: NRDC had designed the model and proved it would work. We were thrilled to hear the president’s endorsement. After all, naysayers had told us this victory was impossible. But NRDC upended conventional wisdom. We devised a plan that broke the logjam on climate action. This June, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose limits on carbon from power plants that will help make the air safer to breathe and protect communities from extreme weather. Carbon limits will move America down the path toward a more sustainable future. And at every turn, NRDC will help guide the way. We push forward— holding polluters accountable, revealing scientific truths, designing innovative solutions—for a simple reason. We want our children and grandchildren to inherit a world with clean air, safe water, wild places, and a stable climate. We know this future is possible, but we have to foster it. That is what NRDC does. We help communities choose clean power over dirty fuels, safe products over toxic chemicals, strong protections over empty oceans. And together with our board of trustees and dedicated members and supporters, we are honoring our obligation to future generations.
Frances Beinecke Peter Lehner President Executive Director
what’s at stake More than
chemicals now in use have never been fully assessed for toxic impacts on human health and the environment
marine species are harmed by marine litter, including seabirds, whales, and sea turtles that die from choking, intestinal blockage, and starvation
Buildings already account for more than
of India’s electricity use, and two-thirds of the buildings that will exist in India by 2030 have yet to be built 4
For four decades, NRDC has passed the laws and designed the policies that make the air safe to breathe, the water cleaner to drink, and the landscape better preserved for future generations. We always take on the toughest challenges—and get results. This year is no different. Here are some facts about the immediate challenges we face. And on the next pages, you’ll read about how NRDC is charting a course toward healthier communities and a more sustainable future with the help of our 1.4 million supporters, people like you.
Americans live within
million of a refinery
100 elephants and 3 rhinos were poached every day in 2013
In 2004, during war games near Hawaii, the Navy’s sonar was implicated in a
of up to 200
Superstorm Sandy killed more than 130 Americans and destroyed thousands of homes
California counties have drinking water laced with dangerous levels of hexavalent chromium
Fracking can occur as close as
had local, regional, or statewide water shortages
to homes and drinking water supplies
are ravaging the critical foodgrowing regions of our nation and the rest of the world
In 2012 alone, U.S. taxpayers spent nearly
—about $1,100 per person—to cover crop losses, flooding, wildfires, and other climate-related disasters
Americans could save
half a ton of pollutants
and between $100-$425
annually on their electricity bills by hitting that “off” switch when electronic gadgets are not in use
of Americans have BPA, a hormone-disrupting toxic used in some common household products, in their bodies 5
Healthier From Pasadena to Poughkeepsie, NRDC’s solutions are making our air and water cleaner, our food and household products safer, and our homes more efficient— and less expensive— to run. We apply our unparalleled scientific, legal, and policy expertise to hold our government to account, keep corporate polluters at bay, and get smart solutions in place now, helping millions of American families save money and live healthier.
Keeping our air free from pollution
Protecting the sources of clean water
Getting toxics out of the water supply
Ozone, the main constituent of smog, is a highly irritating gas that shortens people’s lives, worsens asthma and other lung diseases, and is highly damaging to trees and plants. In a lawsuit brought by NRDC, a federal court found that in 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Clean Air Act when it refused to set protective standards and ignored the unanimous recommendation of its independent science advisers. NRDC challenged the Bush administration’s health and welfare standards when they were set and resumed the legal battle in 2011 when the Obama administration decided to ignore overwhelming scientific research and the opinion of experts that much stronger standards were needed.
NRDC developed a portfolio-based approach to restoring the largest estuary on the West Coast to improve the reliability of water supply in California. Across the state, NRDC’s plan was supported by federal, state, and local elected officials, business and conservation groups, and the boards of water agencies serving 25 percent of urban California. California’s Governor Jerry Brown subsequently adopted the same type of portfolio-based statewide water management strategy. NRDC went on to develop a website that allows Californians to learn where their water comes from—and what their water supply. As part of this effort, NRDC highlighted the efforts of five Southern California water agencies to reduce reliance on imported water and invest in sustainable water supplies.
Nearly two decades after Erin Brockovich waged her battle against an industry cover-up of hexavalent chromium contamination in the tiny community of Hinkley, California, an estimated 31 million Californians are still exposed to unsafe levels of the carcinogen due to government inaction. In fact, at least 74 million Americans in thousands of communities across 42 states drink tap water polluted with “total chromium,” which includes hexavalent and other forms of the metal. Tired of waiting for California’s Department of Health to set a standard for hexavalent chromium in drinking water—eight years past its deadline—NRDC filed suit with a partner group. In July 2013, a judge ordered the Department of Public Health to set a standard by August 2013. Although there is now a standard, When the state issued an unacceptablly weak standard, NRDC pushed back. We will continue pressing the state to adhere to its most basic mandate: ensuring that millions of residents can drink their water without fear.
TAKING THE MOST DANGEROUS TOXINS OUT OF COMMON HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS
Reducing pollution—and energy bills—through energy efficiency
Bisphenol-A (BPA) More than 90 percent of the general population has harmful levels of bisphenol-A (BPA) in their bodies. BPA is found in hard plastics, the lining of food and beverage cans, sales receipts, and dental sealants and has been shown to mimic the female hormone estrogen. In an explosion of studies since 2008, BPA exposure in test animals early in life has been associated with cancer, reproductive abnormalities, and altered brain development. Armed with the science, parents and advocates called for BPA bans but California’s Environmental Protection Agency failed to act. So NRDC filed a petition requesting BPA be added to a list of chemicals whose presence in products can trigger warning labels if exposures exceed regulatory levels. With persistent pressure from NRDC, in January 2013, California’s EPA announced it would add BPA to the list. NRDC will continue to push for safety warnings on products that contain BPA.
NRDC worked with other energy-efficiency advocates, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the pay-TV industry, and equipment manufacturers to slash national electricity use of new set-top boxes by $1 billion annually. Once in full effect, the agreement will save three power plants’ worth of electricity and prevent the emission of 5 million tons of carbon pollution each year. Under the voluntary agreement, leading cable, satellite, and telephone companies commit to buying more efficient set-top boxes and, for the first time, make the energy use of new boxes publicly available. The agreement came after a yearlong negotiation spurred by NRDC’s groundbreaking report that found set-top boxes consume around $3 billion worth of electricity annually, much of that when the box is turned off. And due in large part to NRDC advocacy, the DOE also published overdue efficiency standards for motors, commercial refrigeration, walk-in freezers, and metal halide lamps that will save more than $3.8 billion annually—enough electricity to power almost 4 million American homes.
Triclosan Under pressure from an NRDC lawsuit, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a federal rule that, if finalized, would remove the potentially hazardous chemical triclosan from body washes and hand soaps. The chemical is a suspected endrocrine disruptor and has been linked to reproductive and developmental harm in laboratory studies. The FDA first proposed removing triclosan from certain consumer products in 1978. But the agency took no final action, and in the intervening years, triclosan use has grown to such an extent that bio-monitoring found residues of triclosan in 75 percent of Americans over the age of six. The chemical is absorbed through contact with the skin, and tests have found it in human blood, urine, and even breast milk. In 2010 NRDC sued the FDA to force the agency to issue a final rule. As part of that settlement, the FDA has issued its proposed rule and is committed to taking final action by 2016. In a related matter, NRDC filed a new lawsuit against FDA seeking to obtain records the agency has withheld about possible health risks of triclosan added to toothpaste.
Nanosilver The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in NRDC’s favor that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had improperly approved the use of nanosilver, a toxic antimicrobial that can wash out of clothing and harm aquatic systems, by ignoring its own finding of health risks from exposure to the chemical through the skin or through ingestion by toddlers. As the court stated in its decision, the EPA had improperly approved the use of nanosilver by a U.S. textile manufacturer, when the EPA’s own data showed that nanosilver was precisely at levels that pose a potential risk. The lawsuit was closely watched as a test case for the growing use of nanotechnology in consumer products such as fabrics and food storage containers—despite its potentially dangerous health effects. This case, and the court’s decision, demonstrated that the EPA is accountable for following its own safety standards.
Better Communities We all want vibrant livable communities. NRDC is helping build them with policies that will make our nation’s neighborhoods more efficient, resilient, and vibrant. By changing the way buildings and schools use energy, by putting smarter transportation and energy grid ideas on the table, and by bringing these messages to more people, we can reinvent the way Americans live.
An NRDC court win Forcing Los Angeles County to clean up toxic waterways
Designing smarter transportation planning
Providing Students with Healthier Food and Cleaner Air
When rain flushes Los Angeles County’s stormwater system, it produces a swirling brew of dirt, chemicals, and fecal bacteria that flows into waterways and onto beaches. The untreated water has subjected thousands of residents and tourists to waterborne illnesses ranging from rashes to dysentery, from neurological disorders to death. In 2008, NRDC and Los Angeles Waterkeeper initiated a lawsuit to hold the county responsible for Clean Water Act violations and require that it immediately move to stop polluting the water. NRDC stuck with the case through a ruling that found Los Angeles County responsible for the pollution, a U.S. Supreme Court hearing, and a remand back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—a revolving legal door. Finally, in a major turning point in August 2013, the court found the county’s Flood Control District responsible for the billions of gallons of untreated stormwater runoff it allows to pollute Southern California’s rivers and most popular beaches.
An NRDC study found that if commuters integrate carpooling, public transit, and telecommuting into their daily commutes, they could save more than $1,800 annually, while reducing the environmental impact of their travels. Increasingly, Americans are choosing to live in walkable communities where they have more transportation choices. Yet whether people live in cities, suburbs, rural areas, or towns, NRDC found they can reduce their total vehicle miles traveled by 10 to 50 percent by adopting these simple transportation changes. In fact, NRDC found that if 25 percent of Americans adopted one of these alternatives, the United States could reduce annual transportation emissions by 3 to 12 percent, reduce transportation fuel use by billions of gallons per year, and save consumers tens of billions of dollars in transportation spending each year. And we’ll be pushing for these smart ideas to hit the ground.
NRDC started working directly with the New York City school system to provide recommendations on environmentally sustainable purchasing practices for school lunches, which are served to almost 3 million city students each day. The pilot program reduced cafeteria waste by 85 percent in eight schools, and the relationship puts NRDC and New York City schools in a partnership with the country’s five other largest school districts: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Orlando. And in a first-of-its-kind melding of education, energy, and environmentalism, NRDC launched a successful crowdsourced funding campaign to help schools purchase and install rooftop solar arrays that can provide clean, renewable energy. In fact, California’s Firebaugh– Las Deltas Unified School District was able to reinstate its music program after installing solar on its schools, thanks to an estimated $900,000 in energy cost savings.
Taking the message of smarter living to more people: Building on our existing greening efforts with major league sports, NRDC and NASCAR announced a partnership focused on promoting energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy, recycling and composting of wastes, the marketing of healthier food, and fan education.
saving energy and money from Boston to Beijing NRDC and a partner organization launched the City Energy Project, a longterm initiative to craft and implement cutting-edge plans in 10 cities to reduce energy costs and carbon pollution, create local demand for skilled workers, and produce new market opportunities. The need is obvious. Each year America’s annual utility bill—just to power our buildings—is roughly $450 billion. That’s nearly twice the energy consumed by all of South America. Starting with those 10 pilot cities, NRDC’s City Energy Project will cut a combined total of 5 million to 7 million tons of carbon emissions annually—the equivalent of taking 1 million to 1.5 million passenger vehicles off the road. The effort will also create jobs for electricians, architects, construction workers, engineers, building technicians, and software providers. Moreover, it will
cut energy bills by $1 billion annually. And elsewhere, we: Secured a fundamental change in Washington State’s utility regulation that eliminates barriers to investing in energy efficiency and grid enhancement by the state’s largest electric and natural gas utility, and establishes a national and international model for sustainable energy reform—a major energy-saving precedent. Settled a Michigan case under which utilities will invest $200 million per year on energy efficiency improvements in Michigan homes, businesses, and industrial facilities. Persuaded Illinois utilities to invest $1.2 billion over three years in energy efficiency improvements and made sure all households, not just those that buy electricity from their traditional utility, will have access to energy saving incentives. This will yield enough electricity savings to
power 150,000 U.S. households over the next six years, creating 3,500 new jobs in Illinois by 2015. NRDC also succeeded in passing a major revision to the International Energy Conservation Code, the model residential building energy code adopted by states and localities across the country, which will reduce new home energy use by approximately 20 percent. We brought together the nation’s largest home builders and energy efficiency advocates to recommend the code update, which will save typical new home buyers between $300 and $850 annually on their utility bills. By 2030, this will add up to a national cost savings of more than $100 billion relative to the 2006 code. Over that same time, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by the equivalent of 560 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution, or roughly the emissions
produced by 158 coal-fired power plants in one year. And we won approval from the International Code Council for provisions in building and plumbing codes to reduce water use in cooling towers and water distribution systems, and to permit on-site rainwater use. A proposal authored by NRDC has been approved to reduce the size of hot water pipes leading to showers and sinks. This means less water flushing through the tap while people wait for hot water and required insulation for nearly all hot water pipes in new commercial buildings and many hot water pipes in residential buildings. NRDC is now advocating that the other leading codewriting body, the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, revise its codes to insulate all hot water piping—a move that would reduce energy and water waste in new homes by 15 to 30 percent. 9
Setting the National Agenda
for Clean Air
and Clean Power
America has the resources and ingenuity to rely on 100 percent clean energy. We can power our economy, improve our health, and curb climate change by tapping into energy that doesn’t pollute and never runs out. For four decades, NRDC has made efficiency the centerpiece of our energy strategy, and our work has helped our country use less energy to generate more economic growth. We have also helped expand America’s wind and solar power, and we are pushing to clean up the power plants that drive climate change. 10
Caption for @NRDC tweet of Peter’s blog being retweeted by Obama’s handle. #Renewable energy isn’t just about cutting #pollution, it helps keep homes heated & lights on during #extremeweather. http://j.mp/1e8YCyW
Climate change doesn’t pause for partisan gridlock President Obama Adopts NRDC’s Plan to Slash Carbon Emissions
NRDC created the Community Fracking Defense Project to provide legal and policy assistance to towns and local governments seeking to gain control over, or protection from, fracking in their communities.
Then NRDC staff took our message to Capitol Hill to drum up support if and when the president adopted our plan. One White House staffer contacted NRDC after a few months and asked, “Are you guys behind this? Everywhere we go, the president is being asked about climate change.” Meanwhile, NRDC ran social media campaigns urging members and online activists to tell the White House to act on climate change. In early June, we launched a major advertising blitz with spots during Sunday talk shows and takeovers on the homepage of Politico, National Journal and Washington Post mobile apps, with a video featuring NRDC trustee Robert Redford asking citizens to push the president to live up to his promise on climate change and make dirty power plants clean up their carbon pollution. A well-timed meeting between NRDC President Frances Beinecke and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough made it clear that the president needed to adopt a concrete plan to tackle climate change—and soon. She told him the environmental community was growing impatient with inaction.
Southern California Edison decided to permanently retire the two nuclear reactors, at its San Onofre Generating Station located on the Pacific coast midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, thanks to an amicus brief filed by NRDC and fellow advocates.
Already the Obama administration had set an overarching goal of cutting emissions by 17 percent by 2020. NRDC calculated that our plan would cut carbon pollution by 26 percent by 2020—while also generating an estimated $25 billion to $60 billion in health and climate benefits. To top things off, it would cost industry only about 1 percent of its revenues. From there we began the work of strategically pitching the plan. First, there were briefings with government officials, Hill staffers, business executives, and utilities representatives. Then we announced NRDC’s carbon slashing plan at the National Press Club—the biggest venue in town—with a blue-ribbon panel of independent experts, utility executives, business leaders, and public health officials, to provide supporting statements. And as reporters, administration officials and Hill staffers woke up on the morning of our announcement, a carefully timed (and embargoed) story in Bloomberg News gave outside credibility to our plan. Within hours the story was picked up by the Associated Press and Reuters and ran throughout the country.
On a sweltering June day in Washington, D.C., President Obama announced that he would use his authority under the Clean Air Act, American’s bedrock law for air quality that NRDC helped write, to direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enact carbon pollution standards for our largest source of carbon pollution—power plants. Carbon dioxide pollution from America’s power plants would be cut by 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 34 percent by 2025. It was neither a simple step nor a snap decision. The president’s plan is a common-sense measure, and one that had been nearly two years in the making at NRDC. In 2011, facing the most antienvironment House of Representatives in the nation’s history and a Senate that refused to take up national climate legislation, NRDC Climate and Clean Air Program director Dan Lashof recognized that the Clean Air Act opened a way to clean up power plants, which account for about 40 percent of our carbon footprint. So NRDC designed a state-by-state approach that would allow states to set different targets for carbon reductions, converging together to reach a robust national goal.
By the end of June 2013, the president had announced a plan to reduce carbon emissions at existing power plants. The approach was familiar—one that would allow state-by-state development of standards within a national framework. That afternoon, The New York Times ran an article that the president’s approach to cutting carbon pollution “appears to have been influenced by a proposal from an environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council.” It was a major success, but NRDC is not resting on its laurels. Our experts will be advising the EPA on ways to structure the details of the new standards. We aim to get 20 to 30 states to announce their support of EPA carbon standards for power plants. We will work with those states to show how using statebased carbon limits or energy efficiency and renewable energy standards will put the EPA standards in reach. And we will continue mobilizing support for carbon standards with social media and on-theground events in all 50 states. When the EPA releases draft standards for existing power plants, we aim to beat our record of generating 3 million comments, this time, in favor of standards for new power plants.
The Obama administration finalized a plan advocated by NRDC and our BioGems Defenders activists that will severely limit oil shale and tar sands development on nearly 2 million acres of wildernessquality lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. And in July, NRDC released a report showing that tar sands oil carried by the Keystone XL pipeline would emit 24.3 million metric tons more carbon per year than conventional crude, proving that the project fails the President’s climate test and is not in the nation’s best interests. 11
Protecting Our Oceans, Wild Places, and Wildlife
NRDC President Frances Beinecke put it this way: “Oil spills are the visible dimension of our fossil fuel addiction, while ocean acidification is the unseen one that is unfolding every day.”
An XPRIZE to Save Our Oceans Ocean acidification is sometimes called climate change’s evil twin. We breathe smog, see the smokestacks from power plants, and rightfully worry over emissions from our cars. But while scientists have focused on global warming gases in our atmosphere, the oceans have been absorbing 530 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)—about a third of the carbon dioxide we produce from burning fossil fuels and clearing land. When that carbon dioxide dissolves in the sea, it raises the ocean’s acid level, and corrosive waters make it hard for creatures like oysters, mussels, and coral to build shells. In fact, our oceans on average have become 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution.
XPRIZE—which famously propelled the private development of suborbital spacecraft—is now launching the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE for breakthroughs in ocean acidification monitoring. Schmidt, an NRDC Trustee, previously created the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XCHALLENGE, which prompted development of a device that skims oil from water three times faster than previously existing technologies. With our ocean’s chemistry swiftly changing, the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE identifies acidification as the next big ocean priority our nation must address.
NRDC led the creation of the Marine Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act, a new law in California that sets a statewide goal of reducing marine plastic pollution by 75 percent by 2020 and by 95 percent by 2025. Not only are more than 660 marine species harmed by marine litter, but also coastal communities pay a heavy toll for marine litter—$420 million each year.
Underwater Blasts Violate Endangered Species Act NRDC’s Decades-long Commitment to Protecting Whales Takes another Step Forward NRDC filed a lawsuit in January 2014 because the federal government illegally granted the U.S. Navy permission to harm marine mammals nearly 10 million times in Southern California and Hawaii over the next five years. This case is the latest in NRDC’s longstanding campaign to keep our oceans quiet and to curb the Navy’s use of sonar and explosives. In its own environmental review, the Navy estimates that sonar training, underwater detonations, and gunnery exercises will significantly harm marine mammals 9.6 million times between 2013 and 2018. The Navy’s authorization request to the National Marine Fisheries Service sought approval for 155 mortalities, more than 2,000 instances of permanent hearing loss or other permanent injury, and millions of instances of temporary hearing loss or significant disruptions in vital behaviors—a 1,100% increase in projected harm from the previous 5-year period.
There are more than 35 species of whales and dolphins that make Southern Californian and Hawaiian waters their home, including endangered blue whales, and fin whales, hearing-sensitive beaked whales, and migrating gray whales. All are at risk from this preventable harm. For whales and dolphins, the Navy’s plan to ramp up training off our coasts is simply not sustainable. The science proving the link between sonar exposure and population decline is mounting. And so are the solutions that could prevent thousands of needless injuries and hundreds of deaths. Common-sense measures would significantly decrease the harm to California’s and Hawaii’s aquatic species. The most important of these is to avoid important habitat for vulnerable species, which the scientific community and the Obama administration itself acknowledge to be the most effective available means of protecting marine mammals.
Saving Wildlife and Wild Places
Wildlands and wildlife witness firsthand the effects of climate change, industrial development, and global trade. Sensitive species bump up against the activities of human interlopers and fall to reckless fishing practices and trophy hunting. In regions where wildlife, fish, and plants are imperiled, NRDC defends and protects precious wild species.
Yellowstone Winters will be Quieter, Cleaner Yellowstone National Park might be one of the few places left on earth where one can experience exquisite quietude—a sweeping silence peppered only with the symphony of nature: the acoustic brush of wind, the sound of birdsong in the trees. But by the late 1990s, Yellowstone had lost control over snowmobile usage with an average of 795 of the vehicles entering the park each day. Along with their prevalence and noise came stress to wildlife, pollution, and disruption in what should be one of our country’s most protected spaces. For sixteen years, NRDC has led the charge to protect Yellowstone with regulations that would better govern snowmobiles and snowcoaches (multipassenger vehicles that run on large skis or treads). We submitted five environmental impact statements and seven documents, headed public meetings ,and generated a flood of comments from NRDC members. (Over this period, the National Park Service [NPS] received 1.1 million public comments.) In 2008, when the Bush administration planned to allow 500 snowmobiles per day into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, NRDC and our allies prevailed in federal district court when a judge ruled that to do so showed a failure to reconcile the park’s environmental mission with the increase in air pollution, the disturbance to wildlife, and the impact on visitors that the snowmobiles would bring.
Even then, Chris Mehl, a spokesman for the Wilderness Society of Bozeman, was arguing that “there have been four studies and $10 million spent, and every study shows the best way to get people in the park and protect it is through snowcoach access, not snowmobiles.” The recommendations of that sound science are finally about to come to fruition. Yellowstone’s new final rule will make it mandatory in the winter of 201516 for snowmobiles and snowcoaches to meet strict best available technology standards for emissions and noise. The number of snowmobile trips will be limited to an average of 50 per day, at a maximum speed of 35 miles per hour; snowcoaches are limited to 25 miles per hour. Moreover, there will be no growth in the daily number of non-commercially guided snowmobile groups—which NPS has learned over the past several winters reduces accidents, law enforcement incidents, and disruption to wildlife. All this means that overall emissions and noise at Yellowstone will be significantly reduced. Carbon monoxide will be slashed by 70 percent, and hydrocarbons will be reduced by 75 percent. By investing in new and cleaner-running vehicles for fleets, snowmobile operators will be able to advertise and market their tours to visitors as cleaner, quieter ways of experiencing the stillness of a Yellowstone winter.
In Defense of ALASKA’S PRISTINE Bristol Bay Six years ago, several giant global mining corporations, including Anglo American and Rio Tinto, made plans to gouge a 2,000-foot-deep open-pit gold and copper mine stretching over two miles across the heart of our planet’s greatest wild salmon river system. In a known earthquake zone, colossal earthen dams up to 50 stories high would be built to hold back some 10 billion tons of mining waste mixed with cyanide, sulfuric acid, arsenic, and other toxic chemicals.
Here’s what we know. Virtually every major copper mine in the world has leaked, and in an ecosystem with tens of millions of salmon supporting an abundance of bears, whales, seals, and eagles, even a minute increase in copper dust in the water could be devastating. That’s not to mention the more than $400 million in fishing revenue generated every year and 10,000 jobs for Alaska’s working families that would be put at risk. This is why NRDC has continued its allhands-on-deck campaign to save Bristol Bay—one that has now outlasted the CEOs
of two of the international mining giants behind the project. BioGems Defenders sent more than 267,000 public comments to the EPA calling on the agency to stop the Pebble Mine. As investors in both mining companies gathered in London for their annual shareholders’ meetings, NRDC was there, hand-delivering more than 200,000 petitions from NRDC members and online activists calling on the companies to abandon the environmentally and financially disastrous project. NRDC attorneys hand-delivered 100,000 “Stop Pebble” petitions from
our members to the White House. And we have called upon President Obama to direct the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to stop the Pebble Mine. These efforts have begun to pay off: In September 2013, Anglo American announced it was walking away from the project and the $541 million it has already invested. And in December, Rio Tinto announced it, too, was seriously reconsidering its 19 percent stake in the mine.
It has been said that the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay may be the worst corporate assault on America’s natural heritage that no one’s ever heard of.NRDC has continued to lead the charge against the proposed Pebble Mine, and recently, several major victories-including the withdrawal of one of the mine’s major corporate partners and the the decision of another major player to reconsider its involvement--make it less likely that the mine will be built. 15
NRDC knows no boundaries in its efforts to create a sustainable future. Wherever we work, we join with local partners in building lowcarbon communities and protecting the global commons. Together, we are making life better for everyone, everywhere.
For most developing countries, the largest source of mercury pollution is artisanal and small-scale gold mining. In fact, according to the United Nations Environment Programmeâ€™s most recent Global Mercury Assessment, it is currently the largest source of mercury pollution in the world. 16
Years of NRDC Advocacy Reduce the Threat of Global Mercury Pollution Everyone in the world stands to benefit from the first global treaty on mercury signed in 2013. Mercury is a hazardous neurotoxin that can disperse thousands of miles through air and water from its original sourceâ€”making it a potent global pollutant. Nearly 2,000 tons of mercury were released into the air in 2010 and at least another 1,000 tons into water worldwide. People particularly at risk of mercury poisoning are small-scale gold mine workers and their families, the peoples of the Arctic, and this generation of mothers and babies who eat contaminated fish. In the United States,
more than 80 percent of fish contamination advisories are due, in whole or in part, to mercury pollution. Signed by more than 140 countries, the treaty phases out products that contain mercury, such as batteries and thermometers, by 2020, and major sources of mercury pollution, such as coalfired power plants and industrial boilers, will be subject to new and stricter rules. Global mercury pollution is not entirely solved by this treaty, but it provides the necessary building blocks for important protections. With the force of global will at our backs, NRDC aims to strengthen regulations where threats remain.
Alaska NRDC helped push the Obama administration to protect 11 million acres of important wildlife habitat for caribou, polar bears, beluga whales, and millions of migratory birds in the Western Arctic Reserve.
Europe With partners, NRDC helped convince the United Kingdom and other European member states that the international commercial trade of polar bears should be banned.
Canada Intensive campaigning by NRDC and partners led to the British Columbia government’s opposing the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.
Mexico NRDC is protecting Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, one of the world’s most robust coastal marine reserves with coral reef.
Costa Rica With a Costa Rican partner, NRDC is restoring a critical biological corridor in the Osa Peninsula, one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions.
Chile NRDC and our local partners ushered in a new law that says 20 percent of energy generation in Chile must come from renewables by 2025.
China More than 60 million metric tons of carbon pollution was curbed because NRDC helped China’s government develop building lighting standards.
Millions of dollars and tons of water were saved as NRDC worked with Chinese experts to stop waste and reduce toxic pollution in resourceintensive industries, such as textiles.
washington, D.C. NRDC advocated for the World Bank to adopt a new energy strategy that will severely limit coal funding by this influential financial institution, which in the past has invested $6.5 billion in coal, including financing some of the world’s largest coal plants.
India NRDC helped put into place India’s first comprehensive plan for extreme heat events that protects slum communities, construction workers, and emergency workers. We also saw advocacy efforts deliver 2 gigawatts of solar energy into India’s energy grid. 17