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For the past 25 years, Bradley M. Campbell has been at the forefront of shaping the country’s most significant environmental policies and laws. A former White House senior appointee during the Clinton administration, Brad was the Regional Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Mid-Atlantic Region, and served as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Brad has a wide range of experience overseeing large public agencies, developing strategic litigation, and negotiating innovative agreements that have resulted in environmental milestones in New England and across the United States.
Lindsay Gearheart: I’d love to start off by learning a little bit about your background and how you found your way to Conservation Law Foundation.
Brad Campbell: I had admired CLF’s innovative policy work for years as a public official, while an official in the Clinton White House and as Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Later, as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, my counterpart in Massachusetts was former CLF President Doug Foy, and together we helped craft the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), in which CLF played a major role as well. CLF always struck me as having the exactly the right mix of boldness, creativity, and pragmatism to have real impact. So when I learned five years ago that CLF was in the hunt for a new CEO, I was keenly interested, even though it meant giving up a thriving private law practice and an energy company that had developed some of the largest commercial solar projects in the country at the time.
LG: As someone who’s been at the forefront of shaping the country’s environmental policies and laws, why do you think New England is uniquely positioned to lead the nation in responding to climate change and emerging threats to our environment and public health?
BC: The northeast now has a bipartisan cohort of governors from Maine to Maryland who take the threat of climate change seriously and are prepared to act. Our New England states have always been leaders in both the legal and technological solutions needed to address the climate crisis, as reflected in landmark laws and strong mandates for renewable electricity, so we should concede nothing to California or the European Union in terms of our ability to lead the world in a just transition to (and prosperity from) a clean energy economy. But time is running out, and we need our elected officials to act with the urgency the issue requires.
LG: A big part of protecting the environment in cities like Boston involves reforming transportation systems. Can you talk about how CLF is tackling transit issues?
BC: Boston’s traffic crisis has put a stranglehold on the region’s public health and its economy, degrading air quality and adding to the challenge of reducing climate-damaging emissions. In the courts, CLF has active litigation to enforce the mass transit improvements required by law; before the legislature and state agencies, we are advocating transit solutions – like full-service, electrified commuter rail, bus rapid transit, and other services to take cars off the road, make mass transit more attractive, and give poorly-served communities they transit services their families need and their jobs depend on; and before the T’s Fiscal management Control Board, CLF played a central role in getting the Green Line extension back on track, supporting needed reforms, and make the case for new investment in the system.
LG: Recent headlines show that CLF is challenging Boston’s Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP), which could restrict the public’s access to waterfront areas. Could you tell us more about that issue?
BC: In Massachusetts, areas formerly flowed by the tides are a public trust and for centuries the law has required that any private use of these areas serve the public interest. But too often, these protections have been weakened or disregarded at the behest of developers — especially in Boston — in what has become in effect a spot-zoning process, with the public shortchanged in the process. The Downtown MHP is an especially egregious example of the city and state letting developers buy their way out of rules designed to protect the public. Our pending lawsuit to invalidate the MHP seeks nothing more or less than that the city and the state follow the law and enforce long-settled rules – from height restrictions to the public’s access rights.
LG: How does the CLF partner with local residents, organizations, universities, and public agencies to develop innovative solutions?
BC: Throughout New England, CLF works with partner organizations and front-line environmental justice groups in developing solutions to chronic and in many cases increasing environmental threats. In a multi-year partnership with MIT and the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, we have developed a model for impact investment in healthier housing, creating over 500 units of low-income and workforce housing designed to improve the environmental and social determinants of health. We have programs and pending litigation to protect schoolkids from toxic diesel exhaust; to address potentially catastrophic climate risk at facilities handling oil and hazardous substance in the heart of low—income and minority communities; and to help communities facing noxious quality-of-life issues from unsafe drinking water to law-breaking polluters.
LG: How can the HubWeek community get involved with and support the CLF’s mission?
BC: The HubWeek focus on innovation and leadership aligns perfectly with CLF’s efforts for a healthy and thriving New England for all. As the intellectual and technical center of New England, Boston can and must lead the region and the country in finding solutions to our most pressing public health and environmental challenges, from the existential threat of climate change and snarling traffic, to toxic pollution to the wide disparities in exposure that contribute to a more than thirty year gap in life expectancy between our most and least affluent zip codes. We need the HubWeek community to engage in these challenges, whether by joining CLF or our partner organizations or raising your voice to help our elected officials see that our leadership on climate and environment are inextricably bound up not only with the protecting the New England we love for future generations, but also with maintaining our leadership in the world economy and the fate of our species.
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