Norris McDonald

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Norris McDonald, the president of the African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA), describes himself as "a black conservative environmentalist". [1] McDonald is also the the co-chair of the Nuclear Fuels Reprocessing Coalition, which champions the use of "highly enriched uranium and plutonium from nuclear warheads as fuel in new nuclear power plants". [2]


In response to a question from a reader of Grist, McDonald stated he had "wanted to work on the Hill and saw an ad in the newspaper to work at an environmental group that was located two blocks from Capitol Hill. Once I started working there, I saw the width and depth of the issues and fell in love." [3] In an interview with Grist McDonald stated that he "started in 1979 with the Environmental Policy Center/Institute (now Friends of the Earth). I directed the Energy Conservation and Transportation Project and started AAEA in 1985." [4]

Support for nuclear power

Asked why the AAEA supports nuclear power Norris McDonald wrote that it was "because it is emission free. It produces no emissions that contribute to global warming and smog. It emits no mercury. It emits no particulates. It is a major plus for asthmatics like me. The waste can be recycled, and world-threatening warhead uranium and plutonium can be utilized in nuclear power plants. I got tired of waiting for the big meltdown. It has been 26 years since Three Mile Island." [5] A June 2005 newspaper article said that McDonald "was against nuclear power until about five years ago, when he began seeing it as a way to reduce air pollution." [6]

A few months earlier McDonald was floating a proposal for AAEA to host a conference on nuclear power in an attempt to marginalize anti-nuclear groups. "We should have a conference that would include environmentalists for nuclear power. That would be interesting. The nuts would try to kill it and it would probably recruit more informal support. If the foundations were included, it would moderate the antinuclear lunatic fringe. The reasonable groups would not want to be embarrassed in front of the funders. I would still have security there. Hmmmmm. I wonder who should sponsor such a gathering. Sounds like a job for the AFRICAN AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALIST ASSOCIATION," he wrote on the Nuclear Energy Institute's (NEI) blog. [7]

McDonald pitched nuclear power to the December 2006 meeting of the National Governors Association in Wilmington, Delaware. "If you're an environmental group, I don't see how you can meet your numbers without adopting nuclear power. It's emissions-free," he told the audience. "Don't neglect the forest for the trees." [8]

In April 2006, McDonald wrote a pro-nuclear letter to The Journal News in Westchester, N.Y., presenting himself as a New York resident. "Nuclear power is the key to protecting our environment and we should be proud of Indian Point (nuclear power plant) and our state for supporting the fight against global warming," the letter stated. [9] In a pointed 2004 editorial, McDonald charged that "Riverkeeper and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation are gambling with the health and well-being of New York communities of color by trying to close the Indian Point nuclear power plants." [10]

In an April 2006 blog post encouraging readers to listen to a forthcoming interview with McDonald on National Public Radio, the NEI's Eric McErlain described him as "our friend." [11] In the interview, McDonald argued that: "Three Mile Island happened in 1979. I mean, that was a long time ago, a quarter century ago, and nuclear power has been providing emission-free electricity - up to 20 percent of the total amount of electricity used in the United States - during that period, contributing nothing to the global warming problem." [12]

McDonald wrote an article in the July / August 2005 issue of the Jackson Advocate applauding the decision of "the Board of Directors of the Claiborne County chapter of the NAACP in Mississippi" to change its position and begin "supporting construction of another unit at the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant in Port Gibson." McDonald added, "The Claiborne NAACP, which has been more engaged in the debate over nuclear power than any other chapter of the civil rights organization, recognizes that African Americans in Claiborne County and the surrounding area stand to benefit considerably from the construction of a new nuclear plant." [13]

In a 2004 op/ed, McDonald wrote, comparing nuclear power plants to fossil fuel plants: "What's more dangerous to an inner-city kid - a nuclear power plant or smog? No contest. Absolutely no contest."[14]

McDonald described his decision to support nuclear power in a 2003 interview: "One of my hobbies is studying subatomic physics, quantum mechanics. ... After AAEA was founded, I went back and studied what happened at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. I did a technical analysis of nuclear power and how it works. I tried my best to defeat what I thought could be a good technology. I tried everything I could, but I could not defeat it. ... AAEA just came out publicly for nuclear power in January 2002, so it's very recent. It was about three years ago that I was studying nuclear power and the epiphany hit me." [15]

In June 2002, McDonald spoke at a press conference organized by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the U.S. nuclear power industry's main lobby group. "I say emission-free electricity from nuclear power is a godsend," McDonald said. A news article on the event identified McDonald as part of "the Alliance for Sound Nuclear Policy, which has been running full-page newspaper advertisements urging Congress to override Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn's April 8 veto of President Bush's designation of Yucca Mountain as the national disposal site for commercial nuclear power plant waste." [16]

In April 2002, McDonald spoke at a Congressional news conference in support of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, alongside representatives from the Nuclear Energy Institute; the 60 Plus Association, a known front group; the National Association of Manufacturers; and the Utility Workers Unions of America, AFL-CIO. [17] A news account of a similar pro-Yucca event in February 2002 described McDonald as "one of a half-dozen speakers assembled by the Nuclear Energy Institute to congratulate President Bush on selecting Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, for a nuclear waste repository and to urge Congress to advance the program by rejecting an anticipated veto from Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn later this year." [18]

Norris is also an enthusiastic supporter of the proposed relicensing of the Indian Point nuclear power station. At a public hearing on the proposal Norris stated "I love Indian Point. It's about the four-year-old child in Harlem, in a high-rise apartment on a non-attainment day, without air-conditioning." [19]

Criticism of environmentalists

McDonald complained that he and his son were asked to leave an August 2007 meeting in Transylvania County, North Carolina called the "Southeast Convergence for Climate Action." The goal of the meeting was to "bring together activists across the region who are fighting mountaintop removal mining and coal and nuclear power plants," reported the Citizen-Times (Asheville, N.C.). [20]

McDonald also criticized a related protest at the Bank of America in Asheville, N.C. the following week. Environmental activists were peacefully protesting the bank's support of coal-fired power plants. McDonald called the group "the extremists of the environmental movement," and implied they wanted to shut down all power plants. Referring to his ouster from the earlier meeting, "after disagreeing with the group’s leaders," McDonald said: "If I would have been in the Jim Jones camp, Jim Jones would have kicked me out because I would have told people not to drink the Kool-Aid. ... [The protestors] shouldn’t be drinking this Kool-Aid." [21]

In April 2004, McDonald spoke at a National Press Club Press Conference on "Eco-Imperialism and Eco-Segregation: How traditional environmental groups are largely segregated and their policies hurt poor people and minorities in the U.S. and throughout the world," according to the AAEA website. The press conference was organized by Paul Driessen, the author of the book "Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death," a PR professional and climate change skeptic. Other speakers included Niger Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality, John Meredith of Project 21, Dr. C.S. Prakash of Tuskegee University, Dr. Sallie Baliunas of Tech Central Station, and Dr. Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute. [22]


  • January 24, 2008 - McDonald is giving a keynote address at an air quality and public health forum, at Mount Vernon Hospital, Mount Vernon, New York. The event is co-sponsored by the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, Mount Vernon Hospital and African American Men of Westchester County. [23]

SourceWatch resources


  1. "We're Lovin' It!: Norris McDonald, president of the African American Environmentalist Association, answers Grist's questions", Grist, April 4, 2005.
  2. "Black and Green and Read All Over: Norris McDonald, president of the African American Environmentalist Association, answers readers' questions", Grist, April 8, 2005.
  3. "Black and Green and Read All Over Norris McDonald, president of the African American Environmentalist Association, answers readers' questions", Grist, April 8, 2005.
  4. "We're Lovin' It!: Norris McDonald, president of the African American Environmentalist Association, answers Grist's questions", Grist, April 4, 2005.
  5. "Black and Green and Read All Over Norris McDonald, president of the African American Environmentalist Association, answers readers' questions", Grist, April 8, 2005.
  6. Paul Alongi, "Nuke plant safety still debated," The Greenville News (South Carolina), June 5, 2005.
  7. Norris McDonald, "Another Environmentalist for Nuclear Energy", April 7, 2005.
  8. Aaron Nathans, "Governors hear talk on nuclear power," The News Journal (Wilmington, Del.), December 14, 2006.
  9. Opinion: "Riverkeeper lawsuit against Indian Point," The Journal News (Westchester County, N.Y.), April 26, 2006.
  10. Norris McDonald, Op/ed: "People more important than fish eggs," The Journal News, (Westchester County, NY), March 6, 2004
  11. Eric McErlain, "Norris McDonald on NPR on Global Warming", NEI Nuclear Notes, April 17, 2006.
  12. Farai Chideya, "News & Notes: Ad Campaigns Highlight Effects of Global Warming," NPR, April 17, 2006.
  13. Norris McDonald, "NAACP Chapter's Support of Nuclear Power Reflects Need For Clean Energy and Jobs," Jackson Advocate, July 28, 2005 - August 3, 2005.
  14. Norris McDonald, "Nuclear power is safe and keeps the air clean," The Philadelphia Tribune, July 6, 2004.
  15. Rick Michal, "Norris McDonald: The nuclear epiphany of an African-American environmentalist," Nuclear News, February 2003.
  16. Jeff Nesmith, "Yucca Debate Turns To Props and Sound Bites," Cox News Service, June 18, 2002.
  17. Transcript, Congressional news conference, "Storage of Nuclear Waste at Yucca Mountain," Federal News Service, April 16, 2002.
  18. Steve Tetreault, "Nuclear fuel reprocessing plant urged for Yucca Mountain site," Las Vegas Review-Journal (Nevada), February 20, 2002.
  19. "Critics, supporters, about even at latest Indian Point hearing", MidHudson News, September 20, 2007.
  20. Mike McWilliams, "Environmental protesters hit downtown Asheville," Citizen-Times (Asheville, N.C.), August 13, 2007.
  21. Mike McWilliams, "Environmental protesters hit downtown Asheville," Citizen-Times (Asheville, N.C.), August 13, 2007.
  22. "News," African American Environmentalist Association website, accessed August 30, 2007.
  23. Norris McDonald, "AAEA President To Speak at Mt. Vernon Hospital Forum," AAEA New York blog, January 12, 2008.

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