NRDC Victories 2015:
The Change We Make Together
This is what success looks like.
Joining forces with partners and supporters across the globe, NRDC broke new ground this year in the fight for our communities, our wild heritage, and the natural systems on which all life depends. From protecting the health of millions through food-safety regulations to defending endangered sea life to leading the way with a breakthrough plan for limiting carbon pollution, we advanced potent solutions to the most complex challenges of our time. Together, we're getting the job done.
WE PROTECT. Backed by 2.4 million members and online activists, NRDC helped keep our most cherished wildlife and wild places—and all who rely on them—safe from harmful pollution, illegal trading, and other threats.
WE DEFEND. Working with a broad range of partners—from community groups to business leaders to the federal government—we secured strict measures to keep toxic dangers out of our homes and waterways.
WE LEAD THE WAY. NRDC convened key stakeholders to create and implement innovative strategies to combat climate change, restore our oceans, and build a clean energy future.
Clean Energy Future
Clean Power Comes To States
In August 2015, President Obama unveiled the Clean Power Plan. Inspired by a groundbreaking NRDC strategy, this plan sets the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from U.S. power plants. By cutting pollution, we aren't just fighting climate change—we're also protecting health, creating jobs, and saving money. That's why we're already on the ground, guiding implementation in states across the country.
China Pledges To Cut Pollution
China is the world's largest carbon emitter and the biggest renewable energy market, so its climate actions profoundly shape our planet's future. That's why the country's first-ever public commitment to reducing carbon pollution 60 percent to 65 percent compared to 2005 levels in the next 15 years is a huge step forward. This commitment demonstrates solid leadership and a willingness to cooperate on the global level, which—along with worldwide momentum generated by Pope Francis's encyclical and call to action on climate change—sets the stage for the successful development of an international climate agreement in Paris this December.
Keystone XL Rejected
In 2008, when TransCanada filed a permit application for its Keystone XL tars sands oil pipeline, NRDC was the first environmental group to stand up against its construction. Seven years later, after much heated debate and tireless advocacy, President Obama officially rejected the proposal, citing our nation's obligation to be a leader when it comes to climate action. The long, hard-won battle was a monumental victory and one of the most contentious environmental fights in U.S. history. This win was possible thanks to the dedication of an unlikely grassroots coalition—from conservative ranchers in Nebraska to First Nations communities in Canada, from student activists to climate advocates at NRDC and our partner organizations. And it marks a pivotal moment in the fight against climate change. The rejection of Keystone XL paves the way toward a clean energy future and leaves dirty fuels where they belong—in the past.
Wildlife & Wildlands
Shell Retreats From The Arctic
After years of relentless pressure from NRDC, our millions of members and activists, and other environmental groups, the Obama administration announced in October 2015 that it is canceling auctions for new oil and gas drilling off the coast of Alaska for 2016 and 2017. This comes on the heels of Shell's late-September decision to abandon plans to drill for oil in the region. It's great news for our last pristine sea and its iconic wildlife, as well as for the climate, our economy, and future generations. Next up, we'll be fighting to ensure that these protections remain permanently in place.
International Action For Butterflies
Because the monarch butterfly's migration route covers much of North America, protecting these pollinators requires action both at home and globally. In the United States, NRDC has helped create butterfly highways by lining hundreds of miles of roads with milkweed, a plant essential to the species' lifecycle. And we continue to fight for stronger federal regulations of pesticides that hurt pollinators. Thanks in large part to the advocacy of NRDC supporters, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee agreed in June 2015 to examine the plight of the monarch migration—a critically important process for securing international protections.
Saving The Sage Grouse
The greater sage grouse is an icon of the American West—and a bellwether of the health of the sagebrush-sea ecosystem that stretches from New Mexico to Montana. As that grassland habitat has shrunk, so has the bird's population. Over the past decades, NRDC has gone to court for the sage grouse, and local conservation groups have joined forces to protect its habitat. In September 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would protect sagebrush habitat on 35 million acres in the West, representing the single-largest conservation effort of the Obama administration.
Protecting Elephants From The Ivory Trade
Poachers killed more than 100,000 African elephants for their tusks between 2010 and 2012. In October 2015, NRDC helped secure a ban on ivory sales in California, where at least 80 percent of ivory sold in Los Angeles and San Francisco is likely illegal under state law. This follows our successful 2014 efforts to shut down the country's largest ivory markets in New York and New Jersey. We plan to move our domestic campaign to other states and will continue to push for strong federal regulations.
Reviving Our Oceans
Court Protects Marine Mammals
NRDC took the U.S. Navy to court over its high-intensity sonar and explosives training off the coasts of Southern California and Hawaii, which threatened the well-being of more than 60 whale, dolphin, seal, and sea lion populations. In September 2015, following a major legal victory and extensive negotiations, the navy agreed to designate a significant habitat in the Pacific off-limits to such military exercises. The settlement was a hard-fought victory, but there's more to do, and we'll continue our efforts to protect whales and other marine mammals.
Safeguarding Ancient Deep-Sea Corals
Deep-sea corals—fragile ecosystems that line the enormous canyons on the ocean floors—will be protected from bottom trawling and other destructive fishing practices in a 38,000-square-mile swath of the Atlantic from Virginia to New York. The underwater coral canyons, which can plunge as deep as the Grand Canyon, also serve as sanctuaries to a wide range of marine life. NRDC worked with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and other stakeholders over three years to develop the landmark plan, the most sweeping move yet to protect ocean habitat off our most populous coastline.
Protecting Our Health
Winning The Food Fight
A staggering 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in America are used on livestock, not people. In fact, industrial livestock operations routinely give antibiotics to animals that aren't sick—and this poses big risks for public health. NRDC scored a big win in October 2015 when restaurant chain Subway responded to our campaign by making a public commitment to eliminate antibiotics from its meat supply. The news came soon after a similar announcement from fast-food giant McDonald's. Pressure from NRDC and other groups earlier this year also drove poultry companies Perdue and Foster Farms to stop giving antibiotics to healthy animals.
Oil Companies Surrender On Petcoke
NRDC's presence in Chicago enabled us to form strong community partnerships to draw attention to the piles of petcoke (a by-product of oil refining) polluting the Southeast Side with harmful airborne black dust. Residents of the neighborhood—a once-prosperous community that has become an environmental dumping ground since industry fled in the 1970s—breathe in soot every day, resulting in respiratory and other health problems. After we applied pressure on the industry and the city, BP announced it would stop storing petcoke in Chicago. And KCBX, owned by the Koch brothers, said it would close one of its sites and remove piles from a second. We'll continue to advocate in the Midwest for increasing reliance on clean power, instead of dirty oil and its dangerous by-products.
California Doubles Down On Clean Energy
When it comes to saving energy, the Golden State is once again leading the way. In October 2015, NRDC's legislative efforts helped ensure the adoption of Senate Bill 350, a monumental law that will double energy efficiency, increase renewable energy generation 50 percent by 2030, and put more Californians behind the wheels of electric vehicles. Another approved bill, Assembly Bill 802, boosts energy efficiency in buildings and helps residents better understand their home energy bills and use.
Safe and Sufficient Water
Justice For The Penobscot River
For four decades, chemical company Mallinckrodt dumped tons of toxic mercury into Maine's Penobscot River, putting people, wildlife, and the local seafood industry at serious risk. In 2000, NRDC and Maine People's Alliance brought a lawsuit against the company, and in September 2015—after years of tenacious litigation and citizen action—a judge ordered Mallinckrodt to bankroll a full-scale search for active remedies to clean up Penobscot. This monumental victory, a shining example of community justice, holds the promise of protecting the health of countless people, preserving the state's tradition of lobster and crab fishing, and restoring an ecosystem that spans more than 20 miles along this great river.