Columbia Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.
How we work
All along the Columbia, we work with people in dozens of communities—rural and urban—with the same goals: protecting the health of their families and the places they love. We enforce environmental laws to stop illegal pollution, protect salmon habitat, and challenge harmful fossil fuel terminals. Legal work makes a difference. But lawsuits alone do not create the change we need. Change comes when people organize and stand together for something they believe in. Power shifts when conversations around kitchen tables grow into successful campaigns.
“I can count on Columbia Riverkeeper to explain complex issues. Then we act.”
Emily Washines (Yakama/Cree/ Skokomish), founder and CEO, Native Friends; board president, Columbia Riverkeeper
“Some days it must feel as if the whole fossil fuel industry has targeted the Columbia and its banks; thank God for all those, including the great folks at Columbia Riverkeeper, who have taken up the necessity of warding them off. That’s a burden, but it’s also an honor—and everyone on the planet who cares about keeping its climate intact is grateful for your leadership.”
Bill McKibben, author, environmentalist, founder 350.org
“Columbia Riverkeeper has one of the smartest and most effective teams out there working to save species from extinction, to keep our rivers clean, and to ensure a transition to a carbon-free future.”
Melissa Powers, professor, Lewis and Clark Law School; director, Green Energy Institute
Legal and policy work
When fossil fuel giants and other polluters roll in, our towns are at a huge disadvantage. The corporations have slick lobbyists, a squadron of attorneys, and consultants who give all the right answers. They do the rounds with local politicians. First they get everything lined up, then they announce the project to the public. Riverkeeper fights back. We are experts on environmental laws and public participation. Our staff features five attorneys and we work closely with dozens of public-interest lawyers. Our staff attorneys went to law school to learn the skills and tools to protect our environment and combat corporate greed. Here’s what we do: file public records requests to disclose secrets to the public; ensure fair and public process; support communities through public hearings; and go to court when necessary to stop dangerous terminals, refineries, and pipelines.
Here's an example of our legal and policy success. Riverkeeper and allies challenged and overturned an important permit for the Kalama methanol refinery in October 2017. The Washington Shorelines Hearings Board ruled that the Port of Kalama violated state law by failing to disclose the refinery’s full greenhouse gas emissions. This win sets the important precedent that Washington decisionmakers must look at the full lifecycle impacts of fracked gas, not simply what comes out of the smokestack, to get a true picture of the climate impacts.
For more examples, read a summary of the environmental laws we use everyday and how the Trump administration threatens these laws. And read why Riverkeeper filed the nation’s first lawsuit against Scott Pruitt, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Pound for pound, there is no more effective advocacy group in America right now. They are smart and tenacious, and use science, law and communications together to get great results.
If legal work is our compass to navigate harmful proposals, community organizing is our engine. Our work is powered by the brilliant and passionate local people who stand together to protect their communities. Together, we craft strategies, rely on local knowledge, earn media coverage, and turn out smart public testimony. We show our elected officials and government agencies that the right decision is clean water. Riverkeeper’s team of professional community organizers are equal parts inspirational leaders, strategists, road warriors, and policy wonks. Our greatest strength is partnering with Columbia River communities to promote positive change.
Here's an example of community organizing success. On April 15, 2016, the people of the estuary prevailed over the last remaining Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal proposal on the Columbia—called Oregon LNG. The gas giants were supposed to win. They carefully selected a small town, greased the skids, and hired all the right law firms and lobbyists. Nobody warned them about the people’s fierce love of the river and how hard they would fight to protect it. Twelve years of smart, creative, and persistent effort by local residents and partners defeated LNG and protected the mighty Columbia. Learn more.
We are stronger together. Riverkeeper builds coalitions of organizations and people with shared values. We help bring together frontline, labor, faith, business, environmental justice, climate, and conservation communities to protect clean air and water. Our best work features diverse perspectives. Riverkeeper also regularly coordinates with tribal nations. Columbia Riverkeeper is a proud member of several coalitions, including Power Past Coal, Stand Up to Oil, and the Northwest Fracked Gas Coalition.
Reverend Kathleen Patten of Longview, WA, provides an excellent example of coalition building. “Columbia Riverkeeper and the partnership it helped form—the Power Past Coal coalition—got my name somehow, and before I knew it I was taking the risk and joining with hundreds of other unlikely local folks protesting, testifying, and showing up for each other to stop the threat of cancer-causing diesel and coal dust pollution. We joined together to protect our climate and beautiful Northwest ecosystems.” Read Rev. Patton's full letter here.
The late Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse announced the formation of Columbia Riverkeeper on Earth Day, 2000.
Because we work on important climate and clean water issues, national media, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times, regularly feature Columbia Riverkeeper's work.
Riverkeeper’s team includes scientists, environmental lawyers, and community organizers. We organize and empower local communities, enforce environmental laws, and build strategic coalitions. Our mission is to protect and restore the Columbia River and all life connected to it.
Columbia Riverkeeper’s Board of Directors oversees the organization’s conservation goals and policies, finances, and public relations.
Columbia Riverkeeper uses legal advocacy and community organizing to stop pollution, fight fossil fuel terminals, save salmon, engage communities, and clean up Hanford.
Take a stand for clean water and healthy communities.
Your membership protects and restores the mighty Columbia River now and for future generations.