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Peter Lehner, Executive Director, New York City

Peter Lehner

I am the Executive Director of NRDC. The position is my second at NRDC. Beginning in 1994, I led the Clean Water Program for five years, before leaving in 1999 to serve as the head of the Environmental Protection Bureau for the Attorney General of the State of New York.

My first experience with NRDC dates back to 1980, when I worked on environmental issues in Washington, DC. President Reagan had just been elected and environmentalists needed to strengthen their efforts. After law school, I worked for the New York City Law Department. NRDC was working hard to protect the city's drinking water supply, so I joined forces with NRDC and, on behalf of the city, sued polluters. I also joined with NRDC in suing President Reagan's Department of Transportation for rolling back fuel economy standards. This was the very first lawsuit brought on the grounds of global warming. I knew then that NRDC was thinking big, and committed to solving complex problems over the long haul.

Cases like this underscore why I became an environmental lawyer in the first place: if you are right on the law, you can make tremendous progress. NRDC has distinguished itself by a history of groundbreaking environmental work. Through our lawyers, lobbyists, scientists and media experts, we're able not only to find solutions, but to do the hard work of putting them into place. This is part of why NRDC is, in my opinion, the leading environmental organization in the nation. And it's why I'm honored to be back.

Before I gained any of this professional experience, my dedication to protecting the environment began as I suspect it does for many people -- by spending a lot of time in the outdoors. I spent most of my youth mucking around in the woods near where I grew up, and then as I grew older I spent a lot of time hiking and climbing and canoeing and kayaking. I still try to get out every weekend and, when I do, I'm reminded of how quickly the planet is changing, and how much it needs our protection.

Recent Posts

Big Oil's California Battleground

Posted September 19, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Moving Beyond Oil

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The new documentary Pump lays out the costs and risks of our dependence on oil to move around—the dependence that’s creating an asthma epidemic in families who live near highways. The dependence that forces families to spend their hard-earned money...continued

The People's Climate March: Join Us on September 21 to Make History

Posted September 19, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Solving Global Warming

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An old friend recently got in touch to let me know he’ll be joining me at the People's Climate March in New York City this weekend. He’s coming from pretty far out of town, and he’s not the type some...continued

Green Jobs on the Rise: Will the Growth Continue?

Posted September 11, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Curbing Pollution, Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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Tesla, the electric car manufacturer, announced last week that it plans to open a $5 billion factory in Nevada. The giant facility—they’re calling it a “gigafactory”--will employ 6,500 people to manufacture batteries for Tesla’s much-anticipated low-cost Model 3 sedan. Tesla’s...continued

From Orlando to the EPA: Innovative Strategies to Cut Carbon Pollution and Save Money for Cities, Businesses and Consumers

Posted August 18, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson recently compared the climate crisis to the 2008 financial crisis. He said: We’ve seen and felt the costs of underestimating the financial bubble. Let’s not ignore the climate bubble. Case in point: Florida, where I...continued

Illinois' Water Plan: How to Prepare for a Warmer, More Flood-Prone Climate

Posted July 23, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Solving Global Warming

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Days before the 4th of July weekend, the Chicago Park District closed every one of the city’s lakefront beaches, due to concerns about water pollution. Heavy rains had overwhelmed the city’s combined sewer system, pushing billions of gallons of polluted...continued

House Republicans Wage War on Clean Water

Posted July 16, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Curbing Pollution, U.S. Law and Policy

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Back in 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act with overwhelmingly bipartisan support in both houses. Even today, this bedrock environmental safeguard enjoys the continued support of Americans, in poll after poll, regardless of political persuasion. Yet some members of...continued

What Bayer Won't Tell You About Why Bees Are Dying

Posted July 11, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably

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I stepped off the train at Grand Central last Thursday, along with tens of thousands of other commuters, and ran right into a lavish display from Bayer, the giant chemical company. Part of the glitzy setup, which took up a...continued

Pesticides Behind Bee Collapse Should Be Banned

Posted July 7, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably

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Neonics are particularly insidious pesticides, designed to seep through a plant from roots to pollen. They turn the whole plant into poison for any insect that nibbles on it—even helpful pollinators like bees. But the agriculture industry finds neonics cost-effective,...continued

Cool It: 8 Tips to Handle the Dog Days of Summer in a Warming Climate

Posted July 1, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably, Solving Global Warming

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As much as I’m looking forward to the long July 4th weekend, there are some things about this season I don’t enjoy: the excessive heat, the smog, the bugs—and sometimes when you head to the beach to cool off, there’s...continued

7 Easy Ways to Save Water This Summer

Posted June 30, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably

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Prolonged drought is one of the hallmarks of a warming climate. Texas has been in the grips of widespread drought since late 2010; California, where my daughters used to live, is in its third year of drought, with 100 percent...continued

Cutting Carbon Pollution: The World is Watching Us

Posted June 27, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Solving Global Warming

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World Cup fever is starting to take hold in the United States, grabbing public attention with the same urgency that it does in the rest of the world. It reminds me of another global event that’s also attained new levels...continued

Chile Says No to Giant Dam, Opens Door to Clean Energy Future

Posted June 12, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Greening China

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The Baker River in Patagonia, ice-blue and gentle as a summer breeze in some parts, raging white in others, is about as stunning and wild a place as you could ever hope to see on this earth. These glacial waters...continued

There They Go Again: Industry Responds to Proposed Carbon Standards with Same Old Arguments

Posted June 4, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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Catastrophe. Massive difficulties. Nobody knows how to do it. Those were the protests of auto industry executives, arguing against catalytic converters, seatbelts and fuel efficiency standards. We will see shutdowns. Adverse effects on the national economy. The science is uncertain....continued

New Carbon Pollution Standards Can Create 274,000 Jobs, Save $37 Billion on Energy Bills

Posted May 30, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Solving Global Warming

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Common-sense carbon pollution standards for power plants—like the proposed standards that President Obama will unveil next week--can protect our pocketbooks as well as our health, according to a new study. By fueling a surge in energy efficiency, standards that...continued

Four Inspirational Food Leaders Honored at Growing Green Awards

Posted May 14, 2014 by Peter Lehner

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Sometime in the mid-1990s, Will Harris looked around at the Georgia farm that had been in his family for more than a century, and decided he didn’t want to pass it on to his daughters. Not like this. His herd...continued

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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