Louise Dunlap: One of the first women CEOs of a national environmental group
by Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth
Last week, Friends of the Earth lost a deep friend and a former leader, and communities fighting against coal mining lost an undeterred champion with the passing of Louise Dunlap. On the first Earth Day in 1970, Louise responded to the call and acted to prevent Congress from funding the SST (supersonic transport). This super-fast jet was considered a threat to the earth’s ozone layer. Thanks to her work along with others at Friends of the Earth, the funding for the SST was defeated and the earth’s ozone layer was secured. Louise knew how to use the latest parliamentary tactics to force votes and to get accurate head counts on how Members would vote.
After the SST fight, Louise played the major leadership role in the battle to stop the environmental damage caused by the strip mining of coal. A devastating new form of coal mining called mountain top removal was growing in scope. Alarmed by the very destructive ways of mining coal, Louise took the lead in passing a major bill to regulate some of the most harmful coal mining practices. After a multi-year effort, the act to control strip mining was signed into law by President Carter. Louise became the consummate watch dog for the enforce and improve law over the years, working deeply with communities in coal country.
Early in her career, she became one of the first women environmental leaders when she was appointed president of the Environmental Policy Center and Environmental Policy Institute, which later merged with Friends of the Earth. During her time as president, she became the first female environmental leader invited into the Gang of 10 (the predecessor to the Green Group), a convening of the largest environmental groups working on federal policy.