For a relatively small organization, Friends of the Earth has an impressive legacy. Through our more than 40-year history, we have provided crucial leadership in fights resulting in landmark environmental laws, precedent-setting legal victories and the exposure of political malfeasance and corporate greed.
- Keeping dangerous nuclear reactors offline. In 2012, we successfully campaigned to keep the San Onofre reactors shut down after the accidental release of radioactive steam and the discovery of further damage in reactor equipment. Friends of the Earth filed a petition with the NRC arguing that the utility failed to get a necessary license amendment, and has thus far kept the reactors offline for a year.
- Blocking approval of a dangerous pipeline. Friends of the Earth led the effort to expose corruption and pro-oil bias in the State Department’s review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. Our work (and that of allies) generated pressure on the Obama administration, forcing it to hit the reset button and order a new review of the pipeline’s potential environmental impacts.
- Ending polluter subsidies. In 2012, Friends of the Earth and our coalition continued our efforts to stop the government from handing out billions to Big Oil by support of a billing from Sen. Sanders and Rep. Ellison that would save American taxpayers $10 billion a year by eliminating these subsidies permanently.
- Reducing air pollution from ships. In August 2012, after working for nearly a decade to reduce air pollution from ships, we were rewarded for our efforts when the Emission Control Area went into effect for North America. The EPA expects the reduction in smog created by the new rule to improve the health of people living near the coasts and save thousands of lives. Since then, we have worked to strengthen and protect the ECA by intervening in the state of Alaska’s attempt to challenge the rule.
- Forcing climate impacts to be considered when the government lends money. In early 2012, we successfully held a World Bank proposal at bay to exempt a new lending program from 25 social and environmental safeguards and policies. As a result of our advocacy, and that of our allies, today, projects with the highest social and environment risk are excluded from this new program.
- Protecting Puget Sound from ship dumping. In 2012, we achieved a ban on cruise ships dumping wastewater while docked at the Port of Seattle. The ban will protect the people and marine habitats of Puget Sound.
- Safeguarding community rights in forest offset projects. Pressured the United Nations Development Programme to implement a policy to protect the rights of, and provide opportunities for redress within, communities harmed by the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation carbon offsets scheme.
- Preventing the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes. We worked with community members to delay an experiment involving the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in Key West as part of a mosquito population control technique that raised health, ethical and environmental concerns.
- Protecting consumers from risky nanomaterials. In 2012 we sued the FDA, challenging the regulations for testing and labeling sunscreens. In response to our lawsuit, the agency agreed to reopen its study on sunscreens to account for the novel potential toxicity of nanomaterials now found in these and other cosmetic products.
A more than 40-year legacy
- Friends of the Earth and a coalition of progressive allies spoke out against the 2009 climate bill, which would have rolled back crucial parts of the Clean Air Act and contained numerous giveaways and loopholes.
- In a 2009 lawsuit, we successfully pressured the federal Export-Import Bank to consider -- for the first time -- climate impacts before making its decisions.
- In 2003 we helped draft and pass California’s Clean Cars Law – the first law regulating the emission of greenhouse gas pollutants from passenger vehicles.
- In 2002 we launched a campaign that has now led more than 1,000 companies to pledge to remove chemicals that harm human health from personal care products.
- We persuaded President Clinton to issue an executive order in 1999 that requires the government to conduct environmental assessments of all future trade deals.
- In 1992 our work with the Lower Elwha tribe in Washington State led to a federal law authorizing the removal of two dams that blocked historic salmon runs.
- In 1990, we took the lead in passing the Oil Spill Pollution Act, requiring double hulls on oil tankers in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill.
- We challenged World Bank lending that caused environmental devastation in 1983, leading to the first-ever congressional hearing on the subject.
- In 1981, we played a crucial role in the successful campaign to impose a moratorium on leases for offshore oil drilling in pristine areas.
- In 1971, we led the fight to stop federal funding for the highly polluting Super Sonic Transport commercial airliner. We won.
- In 1969, after an offshore oil spill in Santa Barbara, Friends of the Earth was born.