[env-trinity] NY Times 11 22 09

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Sun Nov 22 08:32:25 PST 2009


 <http://www.nytimes.com/> New York Times

 

Thomas J. Graff, an Expert on West Coast Water Use, Is Dead at 65 

By JESSE McKINLEY
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/jesse_mckinley
/index.html?inline=nyt-per> 

Published: November 22, 2009 

SAN FRANCISCO - Thomas J. Graff, a leading environmentalist who championed
the idea of offering financial incentives for environmentally friendly
behavior, an approach that had far-reaching impact on state and federal
policies, especially on water use in the drought-prone West, died Nov. 12 in
Oakland, Calif., where he lived. He was 65.

 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/science/earth/22graff.html?_r=1&ref=today
spaper#secondParagraph> Skip to next paragraph 

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/11/22/us/22graff_CA0/articleInline.
jpg

Thomas J. Graff 

The cause was thyroid cancer, his family said. 

Mr. Graff, who founded the first California office of the
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/e/environ
mental_defense_fund/index.htm?inline=nyt-org> Environmental Defense Fund and
led it for 37 years, dealt with a host of environmental issues, including AB
32, the first-of-its-kind legislation, adopted in 2006, that sets limits on
greenhouse gas emissions in California. But he made his biggest impact in
the realm of water use, a constant source of vexation in the West. 

Mr. Graff's early support for using market forces to encourage
environmentally friendly behavior was a somewhat radical idea at the time.
But it has since become increasingly common in environmental negotiations
nationwide and has echoes in "
<http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/g/greenhous
e_gas_emissions/cap_and_trade/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier> cap and
trade" policies around the world involving things like airborne pollutants
and carbon emissions. 

"If a resource is scarce, we ought to put a price on it that reflects its
value," Mr. Graff said in an interview in 2008. "Otherwise there's an
incentive to over-consume."

Mr. Graff's theory was put to wide use in 1992, when he cajoled federal
lawmakers into passing the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, a
landmark bill that established a new accounting system to assure that
diversions of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, whose waters help
irrigate millions of acres of farmland to the south, would not outstrip the
delta's own ecological needs. 

The bill also established a groundwork for a so-called water market, which
allowed agricultural interests to sell excess water to cities and other
users for a profit. This process rewarded farmers for conservation and
simultaneously helped protect the delta, where salmon and other fish are
sometimes endangered by giant pumps and low water levels in tributaries. 

"On the Central Valley Improvement Act, no person was more important than
Tom Graff," Senator
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/barbara_boxer/
index.html?inline=nyt-per> Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, said in a
statement after his death. "It wasn't just his knowledge of water. It was
his knowledge about the stewardship of the environment and what this state
had to consider if it really thought about its future." 

Mr. Graff also played a major role in Project 88, an influential, privately
financed 1988 report to President-elect George Bush, which focused on ways
to use market forces to protect the environment and led to the development
of market-oriented controls on acid rain.

Born in Honduras to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and educated in law at
Harvard, Mr. Graff learned the art of politics and persuasion in Washington
and New York, serving as a clerk for a federal judge in the capital and a
legislative assistant to Mayor
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/l/john_v_lindsay
/index.html?inline=nyt-per> John V. Lindsay of New York. In 1970, a private
law practice drew him to San Francisco, but his love of the environment
quickly led him across the bay to Berkeley. 

In 1971, Mr. Graff established the first California office of the
Environmental Defense Fund in Berkeley, near the law library of the
<http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/univ
ersity_of_california/index.html?inline=nyt-org> University of California
campus. He was joining an organization that had staked out a science-based
middle ground in the growing and often polarized environmental movement. 

Mr. Graff's own philosophy combined equal parts pragmatism and personal
charm. In Berkeley, he used economists and computer analysts to break down
energy and water issues, believing that hard data were a singular tool for
winning arguments, whether in boardrooms or courtrooms. (His obsession with
statistics was also personal; he kept a running tally of his free-throw
percentage during his down-time basketball games.) 

While corporations and public utilities had long been viewed as the enemy in
the environmental movement - an early motto at the defense fund was "Sue the
bastards" - Mr. Graff showed a willingness to work with potential
combatants. 

Indeed, last week, Gov.
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/arnold_schwarz
enegger/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Arnold Schwarzenegger of California
hailed Mr. Graff's accomplishments even as he signed a new state water
reform law, calling him a friend to "even those who would normally be
considered adversaries." 

Mr. Graff is survived by his wife, Sharona Barzilay of Oakland; two
daughters, Rebecca Graff of Cambridge, Mass., and Samantha Graff of Oakland;
a son, Benjamin Graff of San Jose, Calif.; a sister, Claudia Bial of Fort
Lee, N.J.; and two grandchildren. 

 

 

Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
(secondary)

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 

 

 

 

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