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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

The Year in Climate Action

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

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Climate change continued to hit home this year in communities across the country. Record-breaking drought, fires and storms threatened people from California to Florida. And reports from the world’s leading scientists confirmed once again that fossil fuel pollution is...continued

Our Forests Aren't Fuel

Posted December 10, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places, Solving Global Warming

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As an admitted arborophile, I’m happy to see that tree-planting crews from the New York City Parks Department are kicking their efforts into high gear as winter approaches, planting saplings that can turn barren urban streets into cool, leafy corridors....continued

Divest Now: Time for Universities to Stand Up to Fossil Fuel Interests

Posted December 3, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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A group of Harvard students recently filed suit against the college’s president, fellows, and others, for “mismanagement of charitable funds.” The suit asks the court to compel the university — which boasts a $36 billion endowment, the largest of any...continued

Pentagon Sees Climate Change as Immediate Security Risk

Posted October 17, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Solving Global Warming

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The Department of Defense released its 2014 Climate Change Adaption Roadmap on Monday, outlining how the U.S. military plans to adapt to the impacts of climate change. For the first time, the Pentagon discusses climate change as an immediate risk--a...continued

As King Tide Approaches, Floridians Turn Up the Call for Climate Action

Posted October 8, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Solving Global Warming

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South Florida’s King Tide—an annual super-high tide brought on by a particular alignment of earth, sun and moon—is expected to peak on Thursday, raising sea level by about four feet and pushing a foot of water into the streets of...continued

Bag Bans Will Keep Harmful Plastic Out of the Ocean

Posted October 7, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Curbing Pollution, Living Sustainably, Reviving the World's Oceans

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Like anyone who spends time in the water, I’ve had more than a few unpleasant encounters with floating trash. Abandoned dinghies, nets, buoys, mylar balloons, dead birds and fish, and above all, plastic. Around the world, people dump about 20...continued

Sharing is Caring (for the Planet)

Posted October 1, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably

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I was recently in San Diego with my daughter, and we used car-sharing services to get around almost everywhere. She typed something into her phone, and a car was there in minutes. I’m partial to bike-sharing, myself, as a pollution-free...continued

Time for GE to Give the Hudson an A-Level Cleanup

Posted September 30, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment

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Late last month, I visited one of the largest Superfund sites in the United States—the 197-mile stretch of the Hudson River where General Electric (GE) dumped more than 1.3 million pounds of toxic PCBs, from the mid-1940s through most of...continued

Do the Right Thing: Institutions Can Responsibly Divest from Fossil Fuels

Posted September 22, 2014 by Peter Lehner in Living Sustainably, Solving Global Warming

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The world is on track to dump 2.5 trillion tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere by mid-century. Does that sound like an innocuous number? It’s not. It’s terrifying. It’s nearly 3 times what our planet can absorb without...continued

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


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