Remembering Tom Stoel

One of NRDC’s earliest staff members, Stoel brought the organization into the global fight to protect the planet and its people.

A man in a suit sitting and speaking into a microphone, with another man in a suit and glasses next to him

Tom Stoel testifying on the proposal to make the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a cabinet-level post, February 1990



It is with sadness that we inform you of the passing of one of NRDC’s earliest staff members: Tom Stoel.

Tom came to NRDC shortly after its founding. He joined the Washington, D.C., office after a Supreme Court clerkship and a job with the White House energy task force. Among the initial group of young NRDC attorneys, he was the first to recognize the importance of addressing international issues, at a time when some of his colleagues were skeptical about NRDC venturing beyond the borders of the United States. Tom argued successfully that NRDC should work across national borders. In the early 1970s, he founded and led NRDC’s International Program.

Tom was involved in the early critical litigation that established application of the National Environmental Policy Act to U.S. government activities overseas. He initiated NRDC’s work on global atmospheric initiatives, including the Montreal Protocol.

He helped persuade the U.S. government to create and strengthen international environmental institutions. He formed partnerships with environmental organizations in other countries, which is still an important model for NRDC’s international work. As a result of Tom’s efforts, by the end of the 1970s, NRDC had one of the largest and most effective international advocacy programs among the major American environmental groups. 

A black and white image of a group of NRDC employees from 1975

A group portrait of NRDC staff, including Tom Stoel (fourth row, fifth from left), taken at the organization’s first staff retreat in Mohonk, New Paltz, New York, 1975

Tom understood that environmental problems could not be addressed in isolation. He created the Global Tomorrow Coalition in the early 1980s to bring together a range of environmental and economic development organizations to advocate for integrated policies to address global challenges.

Tom set very high standards for himself and his colleagues. He demanded precision in thinking and writing. He made sure that NRDC advocacy was based on facts and strong analysis. Tom was dedicated to NRDC and very actively engaged in its development as an institution.

Tom's family and friends should be proud of the seeds he planted in the 1970s and ’80s that enabled NRDC to grow into one of the preeminent environmental organizations in the world.

We are indebted to him and mourn his passing.

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