Sierra Club chief explains climate change strategy

As an environmentalist, Michael Brune made a name for himself by spearheading an unrelenting and ultimately successful campaign to pressure Home Depot into phasing out sales of lumber from endangered rain forests.

Now, Brune is taking the reins of the Sierra Club at a time when much of the movement has turned away from confrontational tactics in favor of compromise, especially on the push for sweeping new federal legislation on climate change.

Brune, who took on Home Depot while heading the Rainforest Action Network, recently discussed his approach to the climate change issue.

In an interview, he outlined how he’s willing to concede on offshore drilling, nuclear energy and other issues.

Where do you stand on the broad question of making concessions to industry and other groups in order to get legislation?


[Compromise] is an essential part of making progress.

The senators drafting climate legislation are discussing more oil drilling, more nuclear plants and stripping the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. How much are you willing to compromise on those issues?

We will go to the mat and we will fight for the retention of EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. . . . Our job is to make sure that’s not included in the bill.

You would oppose a bill that took that power from the EPA?


What else is non-negotiable for you?

It’s a topic of strong debate within our [environmental] coalition and the Sierra Club. . . . We will regretfully, reluctantly, fight the bill if we have to. There’s great opportunity to take action right now, but we don’t think it’s the only opportunity. . . . We’re not going to support legislation that we think does more harm than good.

Is offshore drilling non-negotiable?

It is a top concern. We think it’s a bad idea. It takes us in the wrong direction. And it goes against the core values of the Sierra Club. . . . I wouldn’t rule out Sierra Club opposition [to the climate bill], and at the same time, I’m not willing to guarantee [opposition] over drilling.

What odds would you give for Congress to pass a climate bill this year?

I’m 80% certain that there will be a bill that gets the Sierra Club to stand up behind it.