Jon Coifman, 212/727-4535 or 917/575-1885
Peter Lehner, Spitzer's Environment Chief, to Become Executive Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council; Will Have State, National and International Role
NEW YORK (November 20, 2006) -- After nearly eight years in charge of all New York State environmental enforcement for Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Peter Lehner has accepted a top position at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading non-profit organization working to protect people's health, their communities and the environment. He will start January 1, 2007.
"Peter is a superb attorney, a seasoned advocate, and a pioneering strategist. He is someone completely committed to protecting the air, water and natural habitats we depend on," said NRDC President Frances Beinecke. "His leadership and litigation experience are a perfect match for the values and standards of NRDC, and he will be an outstanding addition to our team."
Based in New York City since 1970, NRDC has nearly 300 lawyers, scientists and other specialists on staff, and more than 1.2 million active members and supporters around the country. The organization has offices in Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing, and will soon be opening in Chicago.
"The environmental challenges we face today are enormous, and so are the opportunities to fix them. The biggest issue of them all is global warming," Lehner said. "Clean, renewable and efficient technologies along with better transportation solutions will cut emissions, reduce our energy dependence and strengthen our economy. To get the job done, we need clear-headed leadership from both business and government. And NRDC will be working at every level to make sure that happens."
As Chief of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau since 1999, Lehner led a staff of 40 lawyers and 10 scientists. He supervised all environmental litigation by the state, prosecuting a wide variety of polluters and developing an innovative multi-state strategy targeting global warming emissions from the country's largest electric utility companies.
"Peter Lehner's work in the Attorney General's office was spectacular. He helped revitalize environmental enforcement in New York State and was a catalyst for major changes at the national level," said New York Attorney General and Governor Elect Eliot Spitzer. "Peter is the perfect person to help lead NRDC. With him serving as Executive Director, I know the Council will continue and expand its visionary work."
Lehner's experience with the Attorney General encompasses many concerns that are central to NRDC's work, including Clean Air Act enforcement cases against coal-fired power plants, federal regulatory issues, endangered species, hazardous waste cleanup, green buildings, and acid rain.
"Peter is a wonderful person, a committed environmentalist, and an excellent thinker and leader," said Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr., NRDC Board Chairman and Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. "I have known him since the early 1980's when he started working at the NYC Corporation Counsel's office after finishing clerking. He was very good then and has had nothing but great experience and growth since."
This is Lehner's second tour of duty with NRDC, where he was the senior attorney in charge of the water program from 1994 to 1999. Before that, he created the environmental prosecution unit at the New York City Law Department. He is a graduate of Columbia University Law School, where he continues to teach environmental law. He holds an AB cum laude in philosophy and mathematics from Harvard College.
He also has extensive experience in sustainable farming and green business in Central America.
The post of Executive Director was previously held by Frances Beinecke, who had the job from its creation in 1998 until she replaced NRDC founder John Adams as President at the end of 2005.