L.A. Environmental Leaders Celebrate NRDC’s 20 Years in Southern California

Group has Transformed State’s Environment with Two Decades of Strategic Victories

LOS ANGELES (March 6, 2009) – On April 25th, L.A.’s environmental leaders will celebrate two decades of “David vs. Goliath” victories by the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Southern California office -- victories that have protected the Golden State’s air, water, open space and public health, and shifted the balance of power in the fight to save the environment.

The 20th Anniversary Celebration will be held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. Emceed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the event will incorporate film, music, and performances to honor NRDC’s work and the Southern California trustees who have made it possible: Laurie David, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jill Tate Higgins, Alan Horn, Peter Morton, Robert Redford, and Elizabeth Wiatt (in alphabetical order). The event chairs are Colleen and Bradley Bell, Dayna and Steven Bochco, and Kelly and Ron Meyer.

NRDC was the first national environmental organization to establish a Southern California office dedicated to protecting the region’s public health and unique natural heritage. The office opened in October 1989, staffed by a small group of environmental lawyers, including Mary Nichols, former NRDC senior attorney and now chair of the California Air Resources Board, and Joel Reynolds, now director of NRDC’s urban program and the 2009 recipient of California Lawyer’s Attorney of the Year award for environmental law. The team quickly established itself as a force to be reckoned with.

“You can be tough doing bad things, and tough doing good things. NRDC, in my opinion, is tough doing good things,” said Robert Redford. The legendary actor, filmmaker and environmental advocate has been an NRDC trustee for more than 30 years. The group’s Southern California office, one of the first LEED Platinum green buildings in the world, was dedicated to Mr. Redford in 2003, which he said “fills me with an enormous sense of pride.”

“NRDC is probably the most effective environmental organization in the world,” said Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor, environmentalist and NRDC trustee. They are “willing to take on major corporations and the government itself to hold them accountable for the environmental policy that’s out there.”

Mr. Redford and Mr. DiCaprio are featured in a short film, which will debut at the event, about the accomplishments of NRDC’s Southern California office.

During the last twenty years, the Southern California office has grown to become a legal powerhouse with more than a dozen full-time lawyers who regularly prevail over corporate polluters, reckless developers and recalcitrant government agencies. The solutions they have created to large urban environmental and public health problems have been replicated around the country and around the world.

“Litigation is what gets you in the door, it’s what gives you credibility, and when you’re new in town, it’s the strongest tool that you can bring to bear,” said Frances G. Beinecke, president of NRDC, whose international staff numbers more than 350.

“For 20 years, NRDC’s Southern California office has played a critical role in L.A.’s environmental progress,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “Their expertise in the courtroom and their tireless work in the communities have made Los Angeles a healthier place to live and created solutions for many of the environmental challenges confronting large cities.”

“NRDC clearly are enforcers of the law,” said David Nahai, general manager of the L.A. Department of Water and Power and former chair of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. “They've achieved a status now akin to a regulator.”

NRDC’s major victories include defending low-income neighborhoods from environmental discrimination, protecting vast swaths of coastline from rampant development, building the very regulatory structure that controls urban runoff, forcing the ports of L.A. and Long Beach to begin reducing toxic diesel air pollution, blocking the global deployment of high-intensity sonar devastating to marine mammals, and helping secure the largest land conservation deal in modern California history, at Tejon Ranch.

“What NRDC has been able to do in Los Angeles is establish itself as a really credible resource for those elected officials or appointees who want to know what the right thing is to do for the environment,” said Ms. Nichols.

“NRDC has built tremendous momentum for environmental progress here in Southern California, and we’re going to keep accelerating the pace of change,” said Felicia Marcus, NRDC’s western director.

The honorary event chairs of the evening are NRDC’s John H. Adams, founding director; Frances G. Beinecke, president; Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., senior attorney; and Peter H. Lehner, executive director.

The event committee members are Laurie and Bill Benenson, Edie Baskin Bronson and Richard D. Bronson, Heather Thomas and Skip Brittenham, Julie Claire, Laurie David, Suzy Shuster Eisen and Rich Eisen, Mary Alice Haney and Graham Larson, Sofie Howard, Jena and Michael King, Audrey Sarn, and Liana Schwarz Montgomery.

This will be NRDC’s first Southern California benefit in three years.  Previous benefits include: Day of Discovery (May 2006), Earth to LA 2004 (May), Rolling Stones Concert (Feb. 2003) Earth to LA 2002 (May), and Earth to LA 2000 (May). 

For more information, please contact Harvin Rogas, 5B Events, at (310) 559-9334 X162 or Harvin@5Bevents.com