Northwest Environmental Advocates
NWEA uses a mix of approaches -- including negotiation, litigation, education, community organizing, and advocacy -- to obtain the best outcome for people and the environment:
- filing lawsuits to obtain program implementation and remedy egregious threats
- advocating for funding, enforcement, and environmental results
- working on advisory committees to build support for implementation
- education and community organizing to ensure an informed and involved public
Northwest Environmental Advocates was founded in 1969 by citizens who were concerned about the imminent operation of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, located along the Columbia River at Rainier, Oregon. The all-volunteer organization quickly became involved in Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing hearings for the construction of reactors elsewhere in Oregon and Washington. After Trojan began operation, NWEA became the most active organization in the country working to shut down an operating nuclear reactor. In addition to publicizing safety problems at the plant, NWEA intervened in licensing proceedings to stop the expansion of storage of spent nuclear fuel at Trojan and to determine how to fix the reactor's failure to meet federal earthquake standards. After years of raising safety issues with federal and state agencies, and sharing information with the public, NWEA worked with the plant's owner-operators Portland General Electric (PGE) to close the reactor in 1993.
In 1988, NWEA made Columbia River water quality a regional issue by demonstrating that the states of Oregon and Washington largely ignored the interstate portion of the river, including its estuary. For seven years, NWEA conducted a regional campaign to designate the Columbia River Estuary as part of the National Estuary Program (NEP). In 1990, the States of Oregon and Washington, along with the public ports and the pulp and paper industry obtained support of the state legislatures to fund an alternative to this federal program. Called the Lower Columbia River Bi-State Program on Water Quality, NWEA's Executive Director Nina Bell co-chaired the $2.4 million dollar study. Subsequently, when funding ran out, the states agreed to NEP designation, a program now called the Lower Columbia River Estuary Program (LCREP). However, the states prevented NWEA from participating, knowing that it would have been the most effective environmental organization.
Since 1990, NWEA has pursued many other avenues to restoring the region's waters including lawsuits to stop Portland's raw sewage discharges, lawsuits to force the states to develop clean-up plans for waters with unsafe levels of pollution, and challenges to the proposed deepening of the Columbia and Willamette River shipping channels. NWEA has also been active in developing national rules and policies to support full implementation of the federal Clean Water Act.
Clean air has also been a priority. NWEA works to replace fossil fuels (oil, coal, and gas) with renewable energy resources because fossil fuels create unsafe air pollution in the region and contribute to global climate change. NWEA has been active in seeking the clean-up or shutdown of the Centralia Coal Plan, worked to ensure carbon dioxide mitigation for new natural gas facilities, and to create a range of programs that will stimulate the development of renewable energy sources. These efforts to provide the public with clean energy sources include working with public and private utilities around the region on "green marketing" approaches.