Fifty years ago, a New York–based lawyer by the name of John H. Adams was concerned about the pollution plaguing America. So on January 1, 1970, he came together with a few other like-minded litigators to set up an organization they called the Natural Resources Defense Council. NRDC was the first national environmental advocacy group to focus on legal action, and it committed itself to protecting our environment for generations to come. Here are some of our major achievements, among the hundreds of victories we’ve achieved to make good on that founding goal.
OCTOBER 18, 1972
Clean Water Act Becomes Law
NRDC helps win passage of this signature legislation intended to “restore and maintain the chemical,
physical, and biological integrity” of America’s waters and to allows citizens to sue polluters directly.
OCTOBER 28, 1973
Gets the Lead Out of Gasoline
NRDC successfully sues the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to issue air pollution
regulations on lead,
resulting in the phaseout of this toxic heavy metal in gasoline starting in 1978.
NRDC wins a legal victory requiring power plants to stop the use of tall smokestacks, which they were
using to disperse
pollution in lieu of installing emissions controls required by the Clean Air Act.
July 30, 1974
Protects Storm King Mountain
On behalf of its first client, the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, NRDC helps halt construction of
Con Edison’s hydroelectric plant at New York state’s Storm King, which would have decapitated the mountain
and decimated the spawning grounds of the river’s striped bass.
DECEMBER 30, 1974
Protects Our Public Lands
NRDC wins a landmark ruling requiring the Bureau of Land Management to begin assessing the environmental
livestock grazing on public lands.
President Carter Signs the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act
NRDC helps win federal protection for more than 100 million acres of Alaskan lands, creating most of the
parklands in Alaska we know today.
DECEMBER 19, 1980
Achieves Hudson River Peace Treaty
Together with 10 other environmental groups, NRDC reaches a final settlement agreement with Con Edison and
utility companies operating along the Hudson. Con Edison formerly abandons its efforts to build the Storm
and donates the land for a state park; it also commits to measures to protect fish at Indian Point.
SEPTEMBER 14, 1984
Cuts Diesel Pollution on Our Streets
NRDC successfully sues the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a case that forces the agency to issue
a range of
standards to control diesel emissions from trucks and buses, rather than the single standard it had set for
light-duty diesel vehicles (which even the worst performing diesel could meet).
SEPTEMBER 20, 1984
Exposes Back-Room Deals between the EPA and Pesticide Makers
NRDC litigation results in the adoption of new rules
for pesticide review by the U.S. Environmental
and also guarantees that the public can participate in regulatory decisions that relate to these hazardous
APRIL 13, 1984
Secures EPA Oversight of Nuclear Weapons Facilities
NRDC wins litigation to compel the U.S. Department of Energy to comply with environmental laws at all of
the agency’s nuclear weapons facilities, ending nearly 50 years of secrecy and self-regulation—and
triggering a massive environmental cleanup.
Helps Establish Energy Efficiency Standards for Appliances
NRDC helps win adoption of national efficiency standards for consumer appliances, curbing greenhouse gases
while also saving customers billions of dollars in electrical bills.
MAY 28, 1986
Reduces the Nuclear Threat
NRDC reaches a historic agreement with the Soviet Academy of Sciences that includes new measures to verify
compliance with a ban on nuclear weapon testing—previously thought to be impossible to effectively monitor
in the Soviet Union.
In response to the first worldwide atmospheric pollution crisis, NRDC leads an initiative resulting in the
Montreal Protocol, an international treaty
to save the ozone layer.
JULY 12, 1989
Helps Ban Asbestos
NRDC’s petition spurs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue a comprehensive ban on asbestos,
the fibrous and highly toxic mineral used in building insulation.
DECEMBER 1, 1989
Secures New Federal Laws for Solid Waste Disposal
NRDC is instrumental in the enactment of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency incinerator standards that
include the first-ever federal garbage recycling requirements.
JUNE 26, 1990
Helps Ban Offshore Drilling
NRDC helps win a moratorium on offshore oil leasing off the entire West Coast, New England, and the
Florida Keys, adopted by George H. W. Bush.
JUNE 29, 1992
Keeps Sewage Sludge Out of Our Oceans
NRDC helps stop the practice of dumping processed sewage sludge off the coast of New York City—the last
place in the country to have continued ocean dumping after Congress voted to ban the practice altogether.
MAY 5, 1993
Protects Alaska’s North Slope
NRDC legal action forces oil giant ARCO to cease water-polluting activities—including dumping oil-field
waste in unlined pits along Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk River—and pay stiff fines for past violations.
OCTOBER 12, 1994
Gets Pesticides Out of Processed Food
NRDC wins a landmark case banning 36 carcinogenic pesticides—and ordering the review of 49 others—in
AUGUST 3, 1996
President Clinton signs the Food Quality Protection Act
The first comprehensive pesticide reform in a quarter century is partly thanks to NRDC’s 1989 “Intolerable
Risk” report, which identified pesticides that included Alar—then commonly sprayed on apples—as
dangerous to children’s health.
After pressure from an NRDC-led coalition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopts a new rule cutting diesel truck and bus pollution by as much as 95
percent, comparable to removing 13 million trucks from our roads.
JANUARY 12, 2001
Helps Create Roadless Area Conservation Rule
NRDC plays a key role in a 200-group coalition that convinces President Clinton to protect 58.5 million
acres of undisturbed, unlogged roadless areas in National Forest System lands. The George W. Bush
administration challenged the rule almost immediately after taking office, but it was upheld on December
NRDC helps protect 3.5 million acres of British Columbia’s ancient Great
Bear Rainforest—home to the white spirit bear and other rare and endangered wildlife species—from
logging and destruction.
OCTOBER 29, 2002
Protects Utah’s Canyon Lands
NRDC prevents oil exploration on thousands of acres
of scenic wildlands and critical wildlife habitat next to Arches National Park.
MARCH 17, 2006
Blocks Industrial Facilities from Increasing Pollution
NRDC wins a federal case blocking the George W. Bush
administration’s plan to allow 20,000 aging power plants, refineries, and factories to spew millions of
tons of pollution into our air.
APRIL 2, 2007
Breaks Political Logjam on Limiting Global Warming Pollution
NRDC and partners win a historic Supreme Court ruling
that carbon dioxide and other global-warming emissions are “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act, and that
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to curb them.
President George W. Bush signs the Mercury Export Ban Act
NRDC works closely with members of Congress, representatives of industry, and officials from groups such
as the American Chemistry Council and National Mining Association to achieve this
historic compromise that protects people around the world from the dangerous neurotoxin.
FEBRUARY 4, 2009
Interior Department Cancels Drilling Leases in Utah
In response to a lawsuit by NRDC and others, 77 Bush-era oil and gas drilling leases in Utah's red-rock
country end, which preserve more than 100,000 acres of wilderness.
MAY 19, 2009
Pushes for Cleaner Cars Across the Country
After a multiyear battle waged by NRDC and others in the courts and legislative halls, President Obama
announces national fuel efficiency standards modeled after California’s groundbreaking emissions law.
Following years of advocacy and litigation by NRDC and others, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
cancels all uses of endosulfan, a pesticide used on fruits, vegetables, and cotton that poses neurological
and reproductive risks.
After five years of steady pressure and rigorous oversight by NRDC and our partners, the world's leading
fishing nations sign a landmark treaty to protect more than 16 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean
from unregulated bottom trawling.
Helps Set Nationwide Standards for Power Plant Pollution
The Obama administration announces new rules intended
to reduce mercury, lead, and other toxic air pollution from power plants, capping a yearslong NRDC campaign
to implement these life-saving standards.
JUNE 15, 2012
Saves Pristine Marine Area Off Baja California from Development
Mexican President Felipe Calderón cancels a massive tourism development project next to the Cabo Pulmo
National Marine Park (home to a thriving reef, and a key breeding area for the Pacific gray whale), which
area residents and their supporters, including NRDC, had fought to protect through an international
Secures Justice for New York City’s Public Housing Residents
A settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit
brought by NRDC and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice requires the New York City Housing
Authority to address the severe mold and moisture problems that plague many of its tenants.
Partly in response to years of pressure from NRDC and grassroots groups, New York State officially bans
the controversial method of extracting oil and gas from impermeable rock formations that is linked to
contaminated water supplies, dangerous air pollution, and other hazards.
Ruling on a case brought in 2000 by NRDC and Maine People’s Alliance, a judge orders chemical company
Mallinckrodt to clean up the Penobscot River, into which HoltraChem (as the company was previously known)
dumped tons of toxic mercury over the span of 40 years.
After seven years of advocacy by NRDC and others, President Obama rejects the Keystone XL tar sands oil
pipeline, which would ship the volatile crude oil through environmentally sensitive and agriculturally
important areas, and onto to Gulf Coast refineries.
Helps Establish America’s First Offshore Wind Project
After years of advocacy and planning help from NRDC, five wind turbines off the coast of Rhode Island’s
Block Island start producing enough electricity to power 17,000 homes and demonstrate the potential of this
renewable energy source.
Secures Endangered Species Protection for the First-Ever Bumblebee
The rusty patched bumblebee, which had lost almost 90 percent of its range since 1997, is officially added
to the Endangered Species List, despite the Trump administration’s attempt to freeze the listing in
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is listed as a carcinogen under
California’s Proposition 65, a voter initiative NRDC helped pass in 1986 to help citizens protect
themselves from chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.
In response to a lawsuit filed in March by NRDC and its partners, the U.S. Court of International Trade
orders the Trump administration to ban seafood imports from Mexico caught with gillnets that kill the
critically endangered vaquita porpoise.