EESI’s Chairman Emeritus and co-founder, Dick Ottinger, has inspired countless individuals with his work and created a lasting legacy in the field of environmental politics. Now he is celebrating his 86th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his first election to Congress. EESI congratulates Dick on reaching these milestones.
He has been an influential leader for his constituents, staff, fellow Members of Congress, and family—and to everyone at EESI. Dick continues an amazing volume of work on energy and climate at Pace Law School, where he is Dean Emeritus.
When asked about the work of his father, Dick’s son Larry Ottinger told us, “My siblings and I have such great respect for – and continue to be inspired by – the passion, hard work, values and leadership that our father has brought to saving the planet and advancing justice for all.”
Serving from 1965-1971 and 1975-1985 as a Democrat representing New York, Dick was among the first environmentalists in Congress. He saw a need to educate Members of Congress about environmental issues and to advance innovative policy solutions. At a reunion of former staff and supporters in December for the 50th anniversary of Dick’s first election to Congress, Ottinger’s former chief of staff Oren Teicher noted, “We were all reminded about how Dick Ottinger influenced a whole generation of people to become actively engaged in public policy.”
According to Teicher, Dick was “never afraid to work across the aisle to get things done.” Together with Reps. John Heinz (R-PA), Morris Udall (D-AZ), Gilbert Gude (R-MD), John Seiberling (D-OH), and others, Dick founded the Environmental Study Group, one of the first issue caucuses on Capitol Hill and a predecessor to EESI.
The bipartisan study group proved to be vital to the passage of landmark environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. When Congress eventually limited the ways in which Congressional office funds could be used for issue groups, Dick and his colleagues knew they had to find a way to continue the group’s critical work. In 1984, they transformed the group into an independent nonprofit organization that receives no Congressional funding — creating the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.
Dick served for many years as Board Chairman, guiding EESI as it has advanced solutions that benefit our nation’s economy, security, environment and health. “EESI has been most instrumental in educating Congress and the public on environmental protection, the need for regulation, and promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy,” says Dick.
Dick remains confident of EESI’s influence on Capitol Hill during these challenging times: “EESI is a decisive force in bringing together coalitions of stakeholders to reach innovative, win-win policy solutions that can actually become law.”
Chairman Emeritus Dick Ottinger has been an essential leader in the environmental movement both in and out of Congress, and an exemplary model of dedication to his position. As his former chief of staff said, “Whether it was working on national/global concerns about clean air, alternative energy sources, etc. – or helping an individual senior citizen with a social security problem – Dick Ottinger always embodied the very best in public service.”