- Views environmental activism as a theologically derived moral imperative
- Seeks to establish environmental activist groups in religious congregations in all 50 states
- Is funded by the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, and the Tides Foundation
The Regeneration Project (RP) is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to “deepening the connection between ecology and faith.” Headquartered in San Francisco, California, RP is singularly focused on the Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) campaign, a nationwide initiative designed to introduce environmental activism into religious congregations in all 50 American states. In 2008, RP donated $132,000 to IPL groups, typically in disbursements of $10,000-$15,000. As of 2009, RP had established IPL groups in 31 states, many of which oversee their own networks of IPL congregations.
RP began life as “Ecoventure,” a nonprofit group which, from 2002-2006, undertook a number of environmentalist projects. Ecoventure was founded by Douglas Linney, a California environmental activist and consultant. Currently the board president of the East Bay Municipal District (Alameda County, California), Linney is also the founder and president of The Next Generation (a progressive campaign-consulting firm) and a board member of the California League of Conservation Voters.
In 2005 Ecoventure hired several lobbyists, one of whom was Susan Stephenson, a specialist in nonprofit-organization management. Between 2006-2007, Ecoventure went through a major transformation. Stephenson was hired as executive director, the Reverend Sally Bingham came onboard as president, and the board of the directors completely changed hands. The name of the group was also changed to the Regeneration Project.
Two members of RP’s board of directors, Amy Rao and Joe Sciortino, also work for the Schmidt Family Foundation (SFF), which, in addition to serving as a major funder of RP, conducts the 11th Hour Project. A funding initiative dedicated to environmental endeavors, this Project lists RP as one of its partner organizations, along with Green for All (founded by Van Jones). Ms. Rao, who serves as the Project’s board president, also sits on the international board of Human Rights Watch. Mr. Sciortino is SFF’s executive director.
Sitting on RP’s advisory council are Andrew Gunther of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund, Michael Lerner of Commonweal, and William Reilly, who formerly worked for the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Environmentalist Paul Gorman is a former RP advisory board member.
RP’s president, Rev. Sally Bingham, is an Episcopal priest who previously worked with the Diocese of California. A member of President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Bingham is also a board member of the Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Working Group, and the U.S. Climate Action Network — and an advisory board member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In addition to movement-building activity, RP engages in state and federal lobbying, especially through its network of IPL groups. In 2006, RP lent heavy support to the effort to place a mandatory cap on carbon emissions in California. Rev. Bingham was present when then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill passing this policy into state law. RP has taken a particularly strong stance against coal and oil, which the group has characterized as “fuels from Hell.”
In 2007, RP received an EPA grant to initiate its online “energy efficient store,” which helps fund state IPL groups. Also during 2007, RP:
- helped lobby for the passage of Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards legislation;
- collaborated with the World Council of Churches to send a joint representative to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali;
- opposed the building of new coal-fired plants in North Carolina;
- received the 2007 EPA Climate Award; and
- helped craft the Interfaith Declaration on the Moral Responsibility of the U.S. Government to Address Global Warming, whose signers included such luminaries as Robert Edgar, David Hallman of the World Council of Churches, Ingrid Mattson, and Sayyid M. Syeed.
In 2008 RP increased its lobbying efforts, especially with respect to the American Clean Energy and Security Act (aka “Cap and Trade]”), which was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009. RP described itself as one of the “lead groups” that had made possible the bill’s passage by the House.
In 2009, RP was one of 31 organizations honored by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation and was presented with an award by United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon. RP also had representation at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen that same year.
The majority of RP’s funding is derived from foundation grants. (To view its grants year by year, click: 2006, 2007, 2008 or 2009). Among the organization’s leading funders are the Bank of America Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the Energy Foundation, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Flora Family Foundation, the Sierra Club, the Surdna Foundation, the Threshold Foundation, the Tides Foundation, and the Turner Foundation.