Heartland Solutions: Top Environmental Group Opens Midwest Base

Former Chicago Environment Commissioner Henry Henderson to Direct New NRDC Office; Sees Vast Opportunity for Clean Energy, Sustainable Growth in Key Region

CHICAGO (January 18, 2007) -- The non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council today is opening a new Midwest office that will serve as a base for expanded participation in the region’s fast growing dialogues on renewable energy, public health and the health of the Great Lakes, as well as new initiatives on important Midwest issues including coal, biofuels and global warming.

Henry Henderson, a Chicago attorney with a history in regional environmental leadership, will be director of the new office. Henderson is best known regionally for serving as the founding commissioner for the City of Chicago’s Department of Environment from 1992 to 1998. 

“It’s time for the Midwest to take its place on the national stage as a leader in clean energy and environmental innovation,” said NRDC President Frances Beinecke. “The communities and businesses in this region have been tremendously successful in tackling these challenges, and that experience is setting the pace for the country as a whole.” 

NRDC has 217,526 members and online activists in the eight Midwest states – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin – covered by the new office.

Working closely with other environmental organizations and advocates in the region, NRDC’s Midwest regional office will focus on reducing the impacts of the region’s coal-fired plants, protecting the local wildlife and natural resources, and encouraging the use of renewable energy technologies and alternative fuels.

“There is a wonderful opportunity for the Midwest to become an international environmental leader by effectively addressing issues such as renewable energy, sustainable development and global warming,” Henderson said. “I am privileged to join NRDC and excited about the opportunity to continue my environmental work in this new role.”

The office will also work on protecting the Great Lakes and their waters; wildlife and ecosystems; sustainable agriculture; open space and urban sprawl concerns; and environmental justice.

Henderson will develop a regional agenda in collaboration with other NRDC staff around the country.  He will lead NRDC’s Midwest advocacy strategy and programs and work to develop productive working relationships and partnerships with environmental, institutional and business communities in the region. 

NRDC’s arrival and the selection of Henderson to lead the office were hailed by local political and environmental leaders.

“The NRDC has a long and distinguished record advancing environmental values in the United States,” said Robert Kelter, President of the Illinois Environmental Council. “By opening a Midwest office, NRDC is recognizing that our region is critical to the nation’s environmental future. Henry Henderson is an effective leader and colleague who brings many years of successful experience in environmental law, policy and government to anchor NRDC’s new Midwest team.” 

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich welcomed the organization to the region as well. “I am pleased that the Natural Resources Defense Council is making a significant commitment to the Midwest, and has chosen Henry Henderson to lead this effort,” Blagojevich said. “NRDC’s presence in the Midwest will help Illinois build on our historic reductions of mercury and other power plant pollutants and achieve greater energy independence.”

Before joining NRDC, Henderson served as a partner in the Chicago-based environmental consulting firm Policy Solutions Ltd., a group that provides counseling on various environmental matters to a wide-range of businesses, organizations and government entities across the Midwest. Over the past ten years he has taught environmental law and policy at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois and Kent College of Law.

As Chicago’s commissioner of the Department of Environment, Henderson developed an environmental mission for the city, which included the development of the Chicago Brownfield Initiative, a comprehensive environmental enforcement program that included rigorous prosecution of illegal waste disposal operations and the closure of polluting facilities, a natural resources rehabilitation initiative, the City’s energy policies and utility regulations, and Chicago’s Clean Air initiative to improve regional air quality while promoting economic development. 

Henderson also served as the assistant attorney general for the state of Illinois from 1985 to 1987 where he conducted litigation and environmental enforcement actions on behalf of the State of Illinois, with extensive chancery and administrative practice, including successful prosecution of clean air, hazardous waste and nuclear materials regulations, in courts and before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Transportation.

NRDC’s Midwest office is located at 101 North Wacker Drive in Chicago.