About Us


NWEA uses a mix of approaches -- including negotiation, litigation, education, community organizing, and advocacy -- to obtain the best outcome for people and the environment:

  • filing lawsuits to obtain program implementation and remedy egregious threats
  • advocating for funding, enforcement, and environmental results
  • working on advisory committees to build support for implementation
  • education and community organizing to ensure an informed and involved public

Some of NWEA's accomplishments include:

  • NWEA's litigation has forced Oregon and Washington to commit to cleaning up and restoring 1,500 degraded waterbodies in the next 10 and 15 years respectively. NWEA is a national expert with these Clean Water Act programs.

  • NWEA made environmental quality of the Columbia River a major regional issue, leading to the creation of the $2.4 million Bi-State Lower Columbia River Water Quality Study, which was co-chaired by NWEA's Nina Bell.

  • NWEA's efforts have closed two nuclear power plants and forced plans for the removal of seven billion gallons of raw sewage from Portland waters and the clean-up of the Centralia Coal Plant, the largest source of sulphur dioxide in the west, and prevented a new source of dioxin to the Columbia.

  • NWEA's outreach has included a boat-based educational program, unique and highly-acclaimed environmental education maps, multilingual warning signs and brochures, and the 75,000 person Ancient Forest Rally & Celebration.

    NWEA is well suited to bringing about environmental change because it has credibility, holds strong but well supported positions, is creative, and has staying power.

  • NWEA's credibility -- a combination of training, experience, and research -- allows the organization to hold its own in negotiations, spearheading strong environmental positions. NWEA is held in high regard by media, agencies, environmental groups, and industry.

  • NWEA's position on the issues is strong, supported by science, law and policy, and tempered by an understanding of practical considerations. NWEA staff are assertive but friendly advocates and are respected as thoughtful consensus builders.

  • NWEA's creativity means using the full range of techniques -- from litigation and negotiation to education and organizing -- to implement successful cutting-edge strategies.

  • NWEA's staying power means that NWEA will see the job through, doing all the research necessary, attending every meeting, and staying on top of the issues and the process.

Northwest Environmental Advocates was founded in 1969 by citizens who were concerned about the imminent operation of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, located along the Columbia River at Rainier, Oregon. The all-volunteer organization quickly became involved in Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing hearings for the construction of reactors elsewhere in Oregon and Washington. After Trojan began operation, NWEA became the most active organization in the country working to shut down an operating nuclear reactor. In addition to publicizing safety problems at the plant, NWEA intervened in licensing proceedings to stop the expansion of storage of spent nuclear fuel at Trojan and to determine how to fix the reactor's failure to meet federal earthquake standards. After years of raising safety issues with federal and state agencies, and sharing information with the public, NWEA worked with the plant's owner-operators Portland General Electric (PGE) to close the reactor in 1993.

In 1988, NWEA made Columbia River water quality a regional issue by demonstrating that the states of Oregon and Washington largely ignored the interstate portion of the river, including its estuary. For seven years, NWEA conducted a regional campaign to designate the Columbia River Estuary as part of the National Estuary Program (NEP). In 1990, the States of Oregon and Washington, along with the public ports and the pulp and paper industry obtained support of the state legislatures to fund an alternative to this federal program. Called the Lower Columbia River Bi-State Program on Water Quality, NWEA's Executive Director Nina Bell co-chaired the $2.4 million dollar study. Subsequently, when funding ran out, the states agreed to NEP designation, a program now called the Lower Columbia River Estuary Program (LCREP). However, the states prevented NWEA from participating, knowing that it would have been the most effective environmental organization.

Since 1990, NWEA has pursued many other avenues to restoring the region's waters including lawsuits to stop Portland's raw sewage discharges, lawsuits to force the states to develop clean-up plans for waters with unsafe levels of pollution, and challenges to the proposed deepening of the Columbia and Willamette River shipping channels. NWEA has also been active in developing national rules and policies to support full implementation of the federal Clean Water Act.

Clean air has also been a priority. NWEA works to replace fossil fuels (oil, coal, and gas) with renewable energy resources because fossil fuels create unsafe air pollution in the region and contribute to global climate change. NWEA has been active in seeking the clean-up or shutdown of the Centralia Coal Plan, worked to ensure carbon dioxide mitigation for new natural gas facilities, and to create a range of programs that will stimulate the development of renewable energy sources. These efforts to provide the public with clean energy sources include working with public and private utilities around the region on "green marketing" approaches.


Northwest Environmental Advocates has a history of 30 years of accomplishments. Here is a short chronology:

In 1987, brought about the closure of the N-Reactor at Hanford.

In 1988, made the environmental quality of the Columbia River a major regional issue, leading to the creation of the $2.4 million Bi-State Lower Columbia River Water Quality Study, co-chaired by NWEA's Executive Director Nina Bell.

In 1989, persuaded the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to bring hazardous waste users into the regulatory system. Assisted in the creation of the National Whistleblower Center, now a successful national organization.

In 1990, stopped a proposed dioxin-emitting pulp mill on the Columbia River through the administrative process and citizen organizing.

In 1991, forced the City of Portland to commit to a 20-year plan to stop discharging over 6 billion gallons of raw sewage each year to the Willamette River and Columbia Slough. Launched the Columbia/Willamette RiverWatch Program.

In 1992, published the environmental map, Portland/Vancouver: Toxic Waters. Installed warning signs on highly polluted urban waters and produced a multi-lingual fish consumption brochure.

In 1993, published and distributed the highly acclaimed environmental map, Columbia River: Troubled Waters. Organized the Ancient Forest Rally & Celebration of 75,000 people in Portland. Helped bring about the closure of the Trojan Nuclear Plant.

In 1994, obtained the Superfund-style clean-up of toxic sediments in the Columbia Slough.

In 1995, negotiated water quality standards to protect salmon and compelled Oregon to identify 1,000 waterbodies that require mandatory pollution restrictions. Obtained utility commitment to 36 megawatts of wind energy.

In 1996, won national legal precedent on citizens' enforcement of water quality standards in NWEA v. Portland..

Published the Air Pollution Action Guide to Northwest Portland.

In 1997, settled lawsuit to compel Washington to develop clean-up plans for over 600 waterbodies with unsafe levels of pollution and/or habitat damage.

In 1998, negotiated strong new federal regulations governing Clean Water clean-up program. Obtained commitment to clean-up emissions from Centralia Coal Plant, the largest source of sulphur dioxide in the West

In 1999, filed petition with EPA seeking regulation of ballast water discharges from ships carrying exotic species. Utilities agreed to develop green marketing program with NWEA, "Renew 2000."


The Environmental Restoration Program addresses the needs of human health, fish, and wildlife, in Oregon and Washington, at the national level, and at specific sites. These are some of the activities in which NWEA is currently active:

  • Advocating with EPA for new national regulations to clean up rivers and lakes with unsafe levels of pollution and habitat damage, as required by the Clean Water Act and defeating industry pressures for new loopholes.

  • Opposing the Port of Portland's proposal to deepen the shipping channel of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, a proposal that will destroy wetlands, release toxic materials, and smother fish and crab habitat.

  • Pursuing lawsuits in Oregon and Washington to force the states to reduce water pollution in waters where pollution levels are already unsafe for fish, wildlife and people.

  • Negotiating new water quality standards to protect salmon and rules to prohibit new sources of pollution into already-degraded waters.

  • Forcing EPA to ensure that states' water quality standards protect endangered species and reduce the allowable levels of toxics.

  • Petitioning EPA to control discharges of ballast water from ships that spread exotic species in U.S. waters, working with a national coalition formed by NWEA.

  • Enforcing laws that restrict water pollution, such as the discharges of raw sewage from the City of Portland into the Willamette River and Columbia Slough.

  • Watch-dogging states' programs to restore polluted waters throughout the region, ensuring improvements in logging, grazing, farming, and development.

  • Participating in efforts to clean up sediments contaminated with toxic chemicals in the Willamette River and Columbia Slough.

  • Evaluating ways in which the Clean Water Act supports regional efforts to save endangered species including, salmon and steelhead, amphibians, fish-eating birds.

  • Ensure water pollution discharge permits meet federal restrictions.


Working with Others
NWEA uses its expertise, working with other environmental organizations and businesses, to achieve the best environmental results. Working with the region's utilities, we have formed Renew 2000, to market clean, renewable energy to the public. Pairing our knowledge of the Clean Water Act with organizations that focus on issues such as salmon and logging allows us to increase our effectiveness.

Much of the protection the government provides public health and the environment is through federal environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act. Unfortunately, state and federal agencies charged with carrying out these laws often fail to do so or fail to do it correctly. As a last resort, NWEA often has to turn to litigation to obtain program implementation and to remedy egregious threats to the environment.

Advocacy describes the bulk of NWEA's work for the environment. Whether seeking funding to carry out environmental programs, enforcement against polluters, or negotiations with industry in advisory committees, NWEA seeks ways of ensuring implementation of state and federal environmental laws that protect and restore the environment. NWEA also works with industry, including utilities, to try to come to common agreements about how to meet environmental goals in ways businesses can support.

Education and Community Organizing
A democratic government only works when its citizenry is information and involved. That's why NWEA works to provide the public with educational information about environmental issues and how government agencies are or are not doing a good job carrying out environmental laws.


Nina Bell has been NWEA's Executive Director for over 20 years. Specializing in implementation of Clean Water Act programs, she guides the organization's litigation and represents environmental interests in regional and national negotiations.

Please feel free to contact us.


NWEA derives its income from a variety of sources including membership contributions, foundation grants, events, publication sales, business, and in-kind contributions. As a non-profit organization with IRS 501(c)(3) status, we rely upon members and contributors for our support. Please consider joining NWEA as a member today.


Our site was created by Emily Johnston with illustrations donated by
Jane Hart Meyer.

Updates are by Adrian Rosolie.

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