Kudos to Rare Environmental Leadership


Kudos to Rare Environmental Leadership

Congratulations to Ben Grumbles, Maryland Secretary of Environment, and Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund, for being honored with this year’s William K. Reilly Environmental Leadership Award.  Both are extraordinary leaders in uncommon times.  Their hallmark is to work across political divides to reach common sense solutions for the environment and the public.

Fred, who has led EDF for over three decades, decided early on in his career against tilting at windmills and, rather than litigate every environmental grievance, he would work with Corporate America and show them why greening their business made good economic and environmental sense.  Under his leadership, EDF has become the world’s largest and most influential environmental organization with an annual operating budget that has grown from $3M to $130M, employee ranks grown from 50 to 450, membership expanded from 40,000 to more than one million, and new offices opened in Arkansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Beijing, London and La Paz, Mexico. Among the group’s many achievements, EDF is the architect of the federal market-based acid rain policy that has reduced average U.S. air concentrations of sulfur dioxide by 76% since 1990. In 2002, The Economist called it “the greatest green success story of the past decade.”  And Fred isn’t afraid to take unpopular stands, as he did in 2012 when he partnered with the Center for Sustainable Shale Development to promote responsible natural gas fracking, a decision which created an uproar in the environmental community where 67 environmental groups publicly denounced EDF and Fred personally.  I have long admired Fred’s work – he speaks softly and carries big credibility on the environment.

Ben Grumbles has spent a lifetime of public service building bridges across troubled waters.  I was a young lawyer when I first met Ben in 2003 in DC.  He was looking for a new deputy in EPA’s Office of Water and I was looking for a new venture.  Some leaders, like Ben, are born with a servant’s heart.  He is one of those rare leaders who the public will never know, but whose influence touches everything around them in a positive way.   Ben recently joined Governor Hogan’s team to oversee Maryland’s Department of Environment – he will be good for Maryland, its people and environment.  But his influence will continue to be felt well beyond the parochial limits of politics.

As John Maxwell notes on leadership, “Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.”  Both Fred and Ben have charted a course, a course that is good not only for the environment, but for people and the communities that will benefit from their courage and leadership.