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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

Fed Up with Our Dysfunctional Food System

Posted April 10, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably

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Americans consume more processed and packaged food than just about anyone else in the world. Processed foods, many of which contain added sugar, preservatives, and chemical additives, are hard-wired into our food system, and make up the majority of the...continued

Yes, Climate Change Is Here: Yes, We Can Solve It

Posted April 7, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Solving Global Warming

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The latest report by the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounds a piercing alarm about the dangers every nation faces from runaway climate change. Climate change, the IPCC scientists tell us, is already jeopardizing food supplies, water resources, even...continued

Victory for Whales! Japan Calls Off Its Annual Antarctic Hunt

Posted April 4, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Just last month, sitting in a small, low-lying fishing boat in pristine Laguna San Ignacio, Mexico, I came face-to-face with a 30-ton gray whale—one of the most magnificent creatures on Earth. These pristine waters, off the coast of Baja California,...continued

Spring Energy Fix: Lower Your Bills with LED Light Bulbs

Posted March 31, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably, Solving Global Warming

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Spring is here at last, bringing relief from a seemingly endless winter and the painfully high energy bills that went along with it. Not needing to turn on the heat due to warmer weather is a surefire way to bring...continued

Closing Clean Water Act Loophole Will Restore Drinking Water and Flood Protections for Millions

Posted March 26, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Curbing Pollution, U.S. Law and Policy

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Like millions of Americans, I love the water. I love to swim, boat and fish, as do many of my family and friends. We all recall swimming in dirty water; it wasn’t all that uncommon a few decades ago. I...continued

Cold Winters Bring High Energy Bills, and a Need for More Energy Efficient Homes

Posted March 5, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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Winter storm Titan dumped snow and ice over a wide swath of the country over the weekend. Federal government offices in Virginia and Maryland shut down on Monday as residents dug out from under 6 to 9 inches of snow. Hundreds...continued

Over Oil Industry Objections, EPA Sets Lifesaving New Standards for Gasoline and Tailpipe Pollution

Posted March 3, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Curbing Pollution, U.S. Law and Policy

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When I worked for the City of New York, I often asked people what they felt was the worst environmental problem. Many said tailpipe pollution. Emissions from the tailpipes of cars and trucks seemed particularly insulting because – as we all walked...continued

The Fight to Save Butterflies

Posted February 26, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places, U.S. Law and Policy

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Last week, at a coffee farm in Costa Rica, I stumbled on hundreds of butterflies, probably some kind of Heliconius species, all fluttering around a particular spot. At first it was hard to tell if they were coming or going....continued

Big Trucks to Get Mileage Boost

Posted February 18, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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Standing in a Safeway distribution center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, with an 80,000–pound fuel-efficient tractor-trailer in the background, President Obama today announced plans to continue his fuel-efficiency success with a second round of efficiency standards for heavy and medium-duty trucks....continued

Roads Change Everything

Posted February 11, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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In Alaska, when politicians talk about building “Roads to Resources”-- new roads through pristine areas to get access to fossil fuels and minerals--the road often appears as a thin line on a map. No big deal. In reality, a road...continued

Strong Support for Clean Energy, and the Jobs It Creates, Crosses Party Lines

Posted February 7, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says the renewable energy industry is responsible for 615,000 jobs in the United States. That’s hundreds of thousands of Americans working to provide this country with clean energy from wind,...continued

Ten American Cities Will Lead the Nation on Energy Efficiency

Posted January 29, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably, Solving Global Warming

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In our cities, big buildings often run 24/7. Offices are continuously heated or cooled, elevators are running, lights, computers and equipment are on, continuously humming. Because they’re constantly in operation—you can’t really unplug a building—our buildings use enormous amounts of...continued

Smarter, Safer Flood Insurance in a Warmer, Riskier Climate

Posted January 24, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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Scientists at Rutgers University recently published a startling projection about sea level rise for anyone considering buying or rebuilding on the Jersey Shore. In the time it would take a homeowner to pay off a 30-year mortgage, sea levels on...continued

Super Sick: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria on Foster Farms' Chicken

Posted January 16, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Health and the Environment

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Last week, a processing plant owned by poultry giant Foster Farms was closed after food inspectors found cockroaches crawling in and around production equipment. This closure, due to “egregious insanitary conditions,” came on the heels of a CDC report linking...continued

Clean Energy Continues to Be a Smart Investment

Posted January 14, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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Renewable energy isn’t just about cutting pollution. It also helps keep our homes heated and the lights on during extreme weather. When frigid temperatures last week caused the unexpected shutdown of two power plants in Texas, wind energy stepped in...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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