Edward Lloyd, environmental hero and conservation giant

Ed Lloyd

 by Alison Mitchell, Co-Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation

In a state with scores of celebrity residents, you may not have heard of Edward Lloyd. But, directly or indirectly, you’ve benefited from his life’s work.

A giant in the environmental community, Ed was an environmental attorney who spent a nearly 50-year career tirelessly protecting the public’s interest by defending preserved lands and fighting polluters, harmful development projects and damaging government policies.

Have you been to Hamburg Mountain in Sussex County, the Manumuskin Preserve or Holly Farm in Cumberland County, or the Mount Rose Preserve in Mercer County? How about the Pine Barrens? The Highlands? Do you have clean water coming from your tap? And if you live in western New Jersey, are you relieved that the PennEast pipeline will never come through? These are just a few examples of the rich legacy left by Ed Lloyd.

Ed founded many environmental law clinics, including two in New Jersey, providing pro bono services to individuals and nonprofit conservation organizations – including New Jersey Conservation Foundation – to give them a level playing field against well-funded adversaries.

“Ed’s incredible legal mind, his humility and tenacity, and his commitment to the environment and the public trust were an inspiration to me and helped win many important victories for the citizens of New Jersey. His judgement and integrity were rock solid and I counted on his counsel for issues and concerns of all types. He was a lovely human being and a good friend to everyone who knew him,” according to Michele Byers, former executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation,

Ed passed away on Aug. 5, just days shy of his 75th birthday. He leaves an enormous legacy of defending New Jersey’s clean air, clean water and preserved land … and a big hole in our hearts. Right up to his death, he was working to protect the Drew Forest, an important forest owned by Drew University in Morris County.

Ed became an environmentalist at an early age.

“I read Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ in high school, and it had an enormous impact on me,” he recalled in a 2021 interview. “I wanted to try to right some of the atrocious pollution that she described.”

He attended Princeton University, graduating in 1970 with a degree in chemistry.

“I decided in college after writing my thesis on air pollution and participating in activities on the first Earth Day that I wanted to be a public interest advocate,” he said.

In pursuit of this goal, Ed attended law school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After returning to New Jersey, he landed his first job heading the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, often known as PIRG.

Ed went on to serve for 15 years as the founding director of the Rutgers University Law School Environmental Law Clinic in Newark, which later became the Eastern Environmental Law Center. From 2000 to 2022, he was the director of the Environmental Law Clinic at Columbia University Law School, and taught environmental law.

In addition to providing pro bono representation to individuals and nonprofits that otherwise couldn’t afford to go to court against big corporations or government, Ed’s environmental law clinics trained hundreds of students, many of whom went on to become environmental lawyers and advocates.

Ed was appointed by Gov. James McGreevey in 2002 to serve on the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, where he outlasted attempts to replace him for the stands he took to protect the Pine Barrens’ pristine water supply aquifers.

“On the Pinelands Commission, Ed argued and voted against assaults on the Pinelands regulations, like the South Jersey Gas and New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline projects,” recalled Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the nonprofit Pinelands Preservation Alliance. “Ed was a true hero of the environmental movement.”

In the 2021 interview, Ed recalled some highlights of his career. One gratifying win, he said, was the successful battle to protect the 1,300-plus acres around the Holly Farm in Cumberland County from numerous development proposals.

“Efforts to preserve the land took over two decades, and the victories and losses in court in those cases were very satisfying and exciting,” he said.

Losses in court can sometimes be just as important as victories, Ed noted.

“For example, we challenged a financial settlement that allowed Exxon Mobil to pay far less for pollution in Linden and Bayonne than they should have, just pennies on a dollar. We lost. But that litigation led to the enactment by voters of a constitutional amendment requiring settlement funds to be used by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for restoration, rather than permitting those funds to be used for any state government expense.

“Similarly, the loss of a challenge to a nuclear plant led to the requirement that any utility proposing such a plant must obtain a ‘certificate of need’ from the state Board of Public Utilities. And though we lost a challenge to Ciba Geigy’s discharge of massive amounts of toxics to the ocean, it led the DEP to reduce the permitted discharge amount by 90 percent.”

In addition to his deep expertise on environmental law, Ed was known for his gentle nature and incredible persistence and dedication. Ed worked 24/7 and was always available to the nonprofits he represented to talk over a problem or dilemma. Literally, you could call him at 10 p.m. and he would eagerly dig in and find a way forward!

At Ed’s memorial service on Aug. 16, friends, relatives and colleagues crowded into the Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton to pay their respects to this remarkable man. Tributes and remembrances came from many of Ed’s friends and partners in the legal community, and his clients, friends and family.

Ed will be greatly missed by all who knew him, but we can count ourselves lucky to have had him for so many years as an advisor, a mentor and a friend.

For information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources – including places impacted by Ed Lloyd’s environmental legacy – visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at [email protected].