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Natural Resources Defense Council

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Natural Resources Defense Council
Established1970; 54 years ago (1970)
PurposeEnvironmental activism
HeadquartersNew York City, New York, US
Area served
MethodAdvocacy, education, litigation
Membership (2015)
2.4 million[2]
President and CEO
Manish Bapna
SubsidiariesNRDC Action Fund
Budget (2015)
US$151.6 million[2]
Staff (2020)

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a United States-based 501(c)(3) non-profit international environmental advocacy group, with its headquarters in New York City and offices in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Bozeman, India, and Beijing.[1] The group was founded in 1970 in opposition to a hydro-electric power power plant in New York.

As of 2019, the NRDC had over three million members, with online activities nationwide, and a staff of about 700 lawyers, scientists and other policy experts.[3][4]


NRDC was founded in 1970.[5][6] Its establishment was partially an outgrowth of the Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference v. Federal Power Commission, the Storm King case.[5] The case centered on Con Ed's plan to build the world's largest hydroelectric facility at Storm King Mountain. The proposed facility would have pumped vast amounts of water from the Hudson River to a reservoir and released it through turbines to generate electricity at peak demand.[7]

A dozen concerned citizens organized the Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference in opposition to the project, citing its environmental impact, and the group, represented by Whitney North Seymour Jr., his law partner Stephen Duggan, and David Sive, sued the Federal Power Commission and successfully achieved a ruling that groups such as Scenic Hudson and other environmentalist groups had the standing to challenge the FPC's administrative rulings.[7] Realizing that continued environmentalist litigation would require a nationally organized, professionalized group of lawyers and scientists, Duggan, Seymour, and Sive obtained funding from the Ford Foundation[5][7] and joined forces with Gus Speth and three other recent Yale Law School graduates of the class of 1969: Richard Ayres, Edward Strohbehn Jr., and John Bryson.[8][9]

John H. Adams was the group's first staff member and Duggan its founding chairman;[10] Seymour, Laurance Rockefeller, and others served as members of the board.[5]

Position on nuclear power[edit]

In the 1970s, NRDC sought to block expansion of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York.[11] It has historically until the plant's closure in 2021, sought to close the plant.[12] NRDC has also sought to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California.[13] In 2018, the NRDC took no position on legislative proposals in New Jersey to subsidize three of its nuclear reactors.[14] NRDC has argued that nuclear power is not a viable energy source to mitigate climate change, arguing that it poses public health and safety risks through nuclear waste and nuclear proliferation.[15][16] In 2014, NRDC president Frances Beinecke said that the NRDC could not support nuclear power because it would lose donations.[17]

Position on solar power[edit]

In 2012, NRDC sued the federal government to stop the 663.5-megawatt Calico solar station in the Mojave Desert in California. NRDC said the solar plant would imperil protected wildlife.[18] In 2022, NRDC supported proposals to subsidize rooftop solar power generation.[19]

Position on hydropower[edit]

NRDC's position on hydropower is that it is not a renewable energy source. When Indian Point was scheduled for closure, NRDC held no position on a proposal to build a transmission line to Quebec to access excess hydropower while arguing, "we certainly would not be on board where [hydropower] gobbles up the space we think should be covered by true renewables".[20]


NRDC states the purpose of its work is "safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends," and to "ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water and the wild, and to prevent special interests from undermining public interests." Their stated areas of work include: "climate change, communities, energy, food, health, oceans, water, the wild".[21]

As a legal advocacy group, the NRDC works to accomplish environmental goals by operating within the legal system to reduce pollution and protect natural resources through litigation, and by working with professionals in science, law, and policy at the national and international level.[22] The NRDC's Center for Campaigns & Organizing (CC&O) also oversees the NRDC Action Fund, a separate 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization which engages in political and electoral activities.[23]

NRDC published onEarth, a quarterly magazine that dealt with environmental challenges, through 2016. It was founded in 1979 as The Amicus Journal.[24] As Amicus, it won the George Polk Award in 1983 for special interest reporting.[25]


The council's first president was John H. Adams, who served until 2006.[26] He was replaced by Frances Beinecke, who served as president from 2006 to 2015.[27] The third president was Rhea Suh, who served from 2015 to 2019.[28]

In 2020, Gina McCarthy served as the CEO and president. She previously served as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Obama administration and became White House National Climate Advisor in the Biden administration in 2021.[29][30][31] In 2021, NRDC selected Manish Bapna, formerly of the World Resources Institute, as their new president and CEO.[32] At their web site NRDC state they have about 700 employees including scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates.


NRDC v. U.S. EPA (1973), with David Schoenbrod caused the United States Environmental Protection Agency to begin reducing tetraethyl lead in gasoline sooner than they were going to.[33][34][35]

NRDC opposed the Water Rights Protection Act, a bill that would prevent federal agencies from requiring certain entities to relinquish their water rights to the United States in order to use public lands.[36][37]

NRDC supported the EPS Service Parts Act of 2014 (H.R. 5057; 113th Congress), a bill that would exempt certain external power supplies from complying with standards set forth in a final rule published by the United States Department of Energy in February 2014.[38][39]

Effect on administrative law[edit]

NRDC has been involved in the following Supreme Court cases interpreting United States administrative law.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Our Offices". NRDC. Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  2. ^ a b "NRDC 2015 Annual Report" (PDF). Natural Resources Defense Council. December 2015. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  3. ^ "NRDC FY2015 Consolidated Financial Statements" (PDF). Natural Resources Defense Council. 30 June 2015. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  4. ^ "About Us". NRDC. Retrieved 2019-06-13.
  5. ^ a b c d Robert Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement (revised ed.: Island Press, 2005), pp. 193–94.
  6. ^ Jon Bowermaster, "Green Giants: On the Front Lines with Two Rival Guardians," New York (April 16, 1990).
  7. ^ a b c McGee Young, "The Price of Advocacy: Mobilization and Maintenance in Advocacy Organizations" in Advocacy Organizations and Collective Action (eds. Aseem Prakash & Mary Kay Gugerty), pp. 40-42.
  8. ^ James Gustave Speth, Angels by the River: A Memoir (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014), pp. 96, 127.
  9. ^ Law School Honors Four Alumni Who Helped Create the Natural Resources Defense Council, Yale Law School (May 7, 2010).
  10. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (1998-11-13). "Stephen Duggan, Environmentalist, Dies at 89". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-02.
  11. ^ Lifset, Robert D. (2014). "Chapter 10". Power on the Hudson: Storm King Mountain and the Emergence of Modern American Environmentalism. University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 978-0-8229-6305-9.
  12. ^ Weisbrod, Katelyn (2021-05-06). "Inside Clean Energy: Indian Point Nuclear Plant Reaches a Contentious End". Inside Climate News.
  13. ^ Halper, Evan (2022-05-31). "Climate worries galvanize a new pro-nuclear movement in the U.S." Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.
  14. ^ "Environmentalists and Nuclear Power? It's Complicated". New York Times. 2018-04-18.
  15. ^ "Should states rely on nuclear power to combat climate change?". PBS NewsHour. 2017-10-22.
  16. ^ Patterson, Thom (2013-11-03). "Climate change warriors: It's time to go nuclear". CNN.
  17. ^ "The left's nuclear problem". Axios. 2017.
  18. ^ Woody, Todd (2012). "Sierra Club, NRDC Sue Feds To Stop Big California Solar Power Project". Forbes.
  19. ^ Weisbrod, Katelyn (2022-03-07). "Environmental Groups Are United In California Rooftop Solar Fight, with One Notable Exception". Inside Climate News.
  20. ^ "With Indian Point closing, Quebec sees an opportunity for hydropower". POLITICO. 2017-01-17.
  21. ^ "Our Work". Retrieved 2021-06-06.
  22. ^ "How We Work". Retrieved 2021-06-06.
  23. ^ "Center for Campaigns & Organizing". Natural Resources Defense Council. Archived from the original on 2024-04-28. Retrieved 2024-04-28.
  24. ^ "About Us - OnEarth Magazine".
  25. ^ "George Polk Award Winners". Archived from the original on September 24, 2014.
  26. ^ "John Adams". NRDC. Retrieved 2020-12-28.
  27. ^ "Frances Beinecke". NRDC. Retrieved 2020-12-28.
  28. ^ "Rhea Suh". NRDC. Retrieved 2020-12-28.
  29. ^ Coleman, Zack. "Trump aims to weaken prime environmental law". Politico. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  30. ^ "NRDC Announces Gina McCarthy as President & CEO". NRDC. November 5, 2019. Retrieved 2019-11-28.
  31. ^ "Exclusive-Biden taps former EPA chief for White House climate coordinator role -sources". Reuters. 2020-12-15. Retrieved 2021-07-07.
  32. ^ "NRDC Appoints Manish Bapna as President and CEO". NRDC. June 23, 2021. Retrieved 2021-07-07.
  33. ^ Rosner, David; Markowitz, Gerald (May 1, 2005). "Standing up to the Lead Industry: An Interview with Herbert Needleman". Public Health Reports. 120 (3): 330–337. doi:10.1177/003335490512000319. PMC 1497712. PMID 16134577.
  34. ^ Bridbord, Kenneth; Hanson, David (August 2009). "A Personal Perspective on the Initial Federal Health-Based Regulation to Remove Lead from Gasoline". Environmental Health Perspectives. 117 (8): 1195–1201. doi:10.1289/ehp.0800534. PMC 2721861. PMID 19672397.
  35. ^ "Set Lead Cut In Gasoline EPA Ordered - Agency is Given 30 Days to Make Reduction Ruling". Toledo Blade. Ohio. October 30, 1973. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  36. ^ "H.R. 3189 - CBO". Congressional Budget Office. 9 December 2013. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  37. ^ Nathan Fey; Matt Rice (20 December 2013). "'Water Rights Protection Act' puts rivers at risk". Post Independent. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  38. ^ "CBO - H.R. 5057". Congressional Budget Office. 23 July 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  39. ^ Hankin, Christopher (15 July 2014). "House Energy & Commerce Committee passes bipartisan regulatory relief for external power supplies". Information Technology Industry Council. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  40. ^ Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 435 U.S. 519 (1978).
  41. ^ Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984).
  42. ^ Baltimore Gas & Elec. Co. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 462 U.S. 78 (1983).

Further reading[edit]

  • John H. Adams & Patricia Adams, A Force for Nature: The Story of NRDC and Its Fight to Save Our Planet (Chronicle Books: 2010)

External links[edit]