Environmental Defense Fund
|Method||Science, economic incentives, partnerships, nonpartisan policy|
Environmental Defense Fund or EDF (formerly known as Environmental Defense) is a United States-based nonprofit environmental advocacy group. The group is known for its work on issues including global warming, ecosystem restoration, oceans, and human health, and advocates using sound science, economics and law to find environmental solutions that work. It is nonpartisan, and its work often advocates market-based solutions to environmental problems.
The group's headquarters are in New York City, with offices across the US, with scientists and policy specialists working worldwide. Regional offices more focused on local issues and policies include Austin, Texas; Boston; Boulder, Colorado; Los Angeles; Raleigh, North Carolina; Sacramento, California; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.
Fred Krupp has served as its president since 1984. In May 2011 Krupp was among a group of experts named by US Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu to a subcommittee of the Energy Advisory Board that was charged with making recommendations to improve the safety and environmental performance of natural gas hydraulic fracturing from shale formations. The subcommittee issued an interim report in August and its final report in November of the same year.
In 1991, The Economist called EDF "America's most economically literate green campaigners." The organization was ranked first among environmental groups in a 2007 Financial Times global study of 850 business-nonprofit partnerships. Charity Navigator, an independent charity evaluator, has given EDF a four-out-of-four stars rating overall since June 1, 2012.
The organization's founders, including Art Cooley, Robert Burnap, George Woodwell, Charles Wurster, Dennis Puleston, Victor Yannacone and Robert Smolker, discovered in the mid-1960s that the osprey and other large raptors were rapidly disappearing. Their research uncovered a link between the spraying of DDT to kill mosquitos and thinning egg shells of large birds. Their research was most likely based on the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson about the dangers of DDT and the effects that it had on birds, published in 1962. Carson, who died in 1964, is noted as the scientist who inspired the environmental movement. The founders of EDF successfully sought a ban on DDT in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. Next, they succeeded in banning DDT statewide, then took their efforts nationally.
In looking back at passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, top EPA officials responsible for implementing the law recall that EDF published a statistical study that supported a link between organic contaminants and cancer rates in the City of New Orleans, a study that received a tremendous amount of media attention and certainly contributed to the enactment of the law.
On April 11, 2018, the group announced plans for MethaneSAT, a satellite to help identify global methane emissions, concentrating on the 50 major oil and gas regions responsible for 80% of methane production. Plans are for the satellite to launch in late 2020 or early 2021 and EDF says it will make the data public. The goal is to help reduce methane emissions by 45% by 2025. Funding for the project comes from The Audacious Project, an initiative of the worldwide TED conference group. While MethaneSAT will offer a big-picture view, a complementary satellite by the California Air Resources Board will help identify point-source greenhouse gas emissions. The CARB satellite project was announced in September 2018 at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco by California Governor Jerry Brown: “With science still under attack and the climate threat growing, we’re launching our own damn satellite". Satellite partner Planet has experience with hundreds of satellite launches in the past few years; no launch date was offered.
Areas of work
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- Climate and energy - EDF aims to reduce the pollution and slow global warming, with strategies including overhauling U.S. energy systems, protecting the United States Environmental Protection Agency's limits on pollution, training new climate/energy leaders, and slowing Deforestation in Brazil and the Amazon rainforest.
- Oceans - The organization works to protect marine ecosystems by creating sustainable fisheries, promoting the use of catch shares, and preserving fragile habitats like coral reefs. Geographical focus of Oceans programs include Belize, Cuba, the Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of California, and the South Atlantic.
- Health programs focus on cutting air pollution from utilities and transportation systems, reforming U.S. toxic chemicals policy, and working with corporations like Walmart to make safer products.
- Ecosystems - EDF works to promote ecosystem-friendly policy, helping landowners benefit from healthier land, water and wildlife. They work to restore river flows and native river bank habitat, broker agreements with landowners to protect endangered species, and partner with farmers and ranchers to improve habitat and water quality.
- Corporate partnerships - EDF has a long history of partnerships with corporations, fund managers, landowners, farmers, fishermen, and other groups. The organization receives no funding directly from its corporate partners, however it does receive millions in funding from organizations with strong corporate ties, such as the Walton Family Foundation.
- Environmental economics - The organization promotes the use of markets and incentives to help solve environmental problems. Examples of this approach at work include catch shares the cap-and-trade plan written into the Clean Air Act (United States).
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Key accomplishments of Environmental Defense Fund include:
- 1967 - A group of scientists forms the organization and sets out to ban DDT (succeeding in 1972). (See DDT ban.)
- 1970 - Efforts to ban whale hunting.
- 1974 - An Environmental Defense Fund report on potential health risks of Mississippi River water based on EPA analytical studies helps pass the Safe Drinking Water Act, establishing the first comprehensive health standards for water nationwide.
- 1985 - Helped convince federal regulators to phase out lead from gasoline, leading to a dramatic decline in childhood lead poisoning.
- 1986 - Pushed McDonald's to institute biodegradable food-packaging containers.
- 1987 - Played a key role in the treaty to phase out the use of CFCs, chemicals that many researchers believe damage the Earth's ozone layer, although CFC-22 was continued to be allowed, renamed H-CFC-22 to avoid banning.
- 1990 - Designed Title IV of the Clean Air Act, which incorporates market-based methods to cut air pollution and acid rain. The measures reduced sulfur dioxide pollution faster than expected, and at a fraction of the cost.
- 1990 - Improved McDonald's packaging, reducing solid waste in a groundbreaking corporate partnership, which came after dozens of other groups had protested McDonald's use of styrofoam packaging and the corporation was looking for a way to "save face" by claiming EDF's advocacy was the reason for the shift. The Citizens Clearinghouse on Hazardous Waste, founded by Lois Gibbs, helped coordinate the protests of McDonald's.
- 1993 - EDF was one of seven foundation-funded environmental groups to endorse the NAFTA Treaty.
- 1995 - Designed the Safe Harbor plan that gives landowners new incentives to help endangered species on their property.
- 2000 - Seven of the world's largest corporations join Environmental Defense in a partnership to address global warming, setting firm targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
- 2001, 2004, 2008 - Won measures resulting in cleaner vehicle exhaust from trucks, ships and other vehicles
- 2002 - Initiated the recent campaign to remove the O'Shaughnessy Dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park
- 2004 - Culmination of 4-year partnership with FedEx to develop and deploy hybrid electric trucks. The new vehicles cut smog-forming pollution by 65%, reduce soot by 96%, and move 57% farther on a gallon of fuel.
- 2006 - Co-authored the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 with Natural Resources Defense Council.
- 2006 - Led adoption of catch shares, a science-based method to manage fishing and control fish population decline.
- 2007 - Co-founded United States Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP), a coalition of major corporations and environmental groups supporting action on global warming, including a market-based carbon emissions cap. Corporate participants include GE, DuPont and Duke Energy; non-profit groups involved are Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute, a co-founder.
- 2007 - Helped negotiate an environmental codicil as part of Texas Pacific's buyout of TXU.
- 2008-2011 - Founded and developed the Climate Corps program, which matches organizations with MBA and MPA students to uncover energy savings.
- 2011 - Successful campaign to clean up highly-polluting heating oil in New York City.
- 2011 - Built coalition to defeat Proposition 23, an industry-backed ballot initiative that would have blocked California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32).
EDF has drawn criticism for its ties to large corporations including McDonald's, FedEx, Walmart, and the Texas energy company TXU, with which the organization has negotiated to reduce emissions and develop more environmentally friendly business practices. EDF's philosophy is that it is willing to talk with big business and try new approaches in order to get environmental results.
A 2009 op-ed piece by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Association in the trade journal Fishermen's News argues that EDF's approach to fisheries policy in the Pacific Northwest is likely to damage smaller, local operators who have an interest in protecting fisheries and limiting by-catch. Many fishermen fear that the approach gives a competitive advantage to larger, non-local operations, jeopardizing independent operators, including boats, fisheries, and ports.
EDF argues that the way we manage our fisheries needs to change if we want to protect fishermen, fish, and coastal communities. In a report suggesting economic waste in some of the world's commercial fisheries, EDF advocates an approach: catch shares, which sets a scientifically based limit on the total amount of fish that can be caught; that amount is then divided among individuals or groups, who can sell their shares or lease them to fishermen. EDF suggests that concern about consolidation or corporate ownership of fisheries is unwarranted.
EDF has been accused of funding and disseminating studies  that utilize questionable science and economics in their promotion of catch share fishery management. Also, they have employed substantial political lobbying  to promote fisheries policies that tend to force out smaller fishing businesses in favor of consolidated, corporate owned fleets, while denying any adverse effects these programs have on fishing families and communities.
EDF has held meetings with private investors  where their West Coast vice president, David Festa, promoted the purchase of fishing rights as an investment that can yield 400% profits, and "options value" despite its claims that these rights are designed to provide financial incentives for the fishermen themselves. Multiple non-profit organizations have expressed repeated frustrations  with EDF and its promotion of these management policies. Recent studies  show that despite EDF's claims, catch shares do not end overfishing and typically result in no long term environmental gains.
The Environmental Defense Fund supports the Rigs-to-Reefs program in the Gulf of Mexico, in which former offshore oil production platforms are converted to permanent artificial reefs. The EDF sees the program as a way to preserve the existing reef habitat of the oil platforms.
EDF sees natural gas as a way to quickly replace coal, with the idea that gas in time will be replaced by renewable energy. The organization presses for stricter environmental controls on gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, without banning them. In November 2013, after negotiations with the oil industry, EDF representatives joined spokesmen for Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy, and Encana, to endorse Colorado governor John Hickenlooper's proposed tighter regulation of emissions of volatile organic compounds by oil and gas production. EDF has funded studies jointly with the petroleum industry on the environmental effects of natural gas production. The policy has been criticized by some environmentalists. EDF counsel and blogger Mark Brownstein answered:
Demand for natural gas is not going away, and neither is hydraulic fracturing. We must be clear-eyed about this, and fight to protect public health and the environment from unacceptable impacts. We must also work hard to put policies in place that ensure that natural gas serves as an enabler of renewable power generation, not an impediment to it. We fear that those who oppose all natural gas production everywhere are, in effect, making it harder for the U.S. economy to wean itself from dirty coal.
- Global warming
- Earth Science
- Natural environment
- Natural landscape
- Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency
- About EDF
- EDF Finances
- EDF People
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- EDF's Climate Programs
- EDF's Oceans Programs
- EDF's Oceans work by region
- EDF's Health Programs
- EDF's Ecosystems Programs
- EDF's Approach: Partnerships
- EDF's Corporate Donations Policy
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- EDF's Approach: Markets
- EDF's Approach: Markets: Acid Rain
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- "Dam Dispute Losses a Flood of Emotions," by John M. Glionna, The Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2007.
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