Hero of the week: former congressman John Dingell (1926-2019)

Seen in 2003 in Trenton, Dingell sponsored a bill to establish an international wildlife refuge along the lower Detroit River. Dingell also was instrumental in preserving Humbug Marsh near Gibraltar as the centerpiece of the wildlife refuge.

Photo: Morris Richardson II/The Detroit News

John D. Dingell Jr., America’s longest-serving member of Congress, WWII veteran, and a man known for his candor and humor passed away yesterday at the age of 92. The New York Times reported that Mr. Dingell had represented what is now Michigan’s 12th district, outside Detroit, since the Eisenhower administration, a 59-year run. But when he announced in 2014 at age 87 that he would not seek re-election that year, he said he was stepping down because he no longer recognized the institution he loved. Bitter partisanship, he said, was preventing the House from getting anything done. While he was a champion of his home state’s auto industry which sometimes put him at odds with environmental groups, Dingell fought for environmental causes since before scientists began measuring carbon in our atmosphere. Upon his retirement from Congress in 2014 the League of Conservation (from which Dingell received a lifetime rating of 75 percent, and a 93 percent rating in 2013) expressed that “[He’d] played an integral role in enacting countless cornerstone environmental laws, from the Endangered Species Act, to the Clean Water Act, to the National Environmental Policy Act.”

As Grist wrote,

Climate Progress assembled a bullet-point list of Dingell’s environmental achievements. Here are some of the highlights from it:

  • He was an architect of the 1972 Clean Water Act, which has helped protect waterways from pollution for more than 40 years.
  • He authored the 1973 Endangered Species Act, which made America the first country in the world to condemn human-caused extinction of other species as illegal. It has since been credited with saving hundreds of plants and animals from the brink of extinction.
  • He wrote the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA, which requires federal agencies to consider the environmental consequences of developmental projects before they are built. The legislation has been emulated by many other countries, and it [is] sometimes referred to as [the] “Magna Carta” of environmental law.
  • He helped establish the first international wildlife refuge in North America, the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge. One of his proudest achievements, the refuge has been protecting and conserving habitat for over 60 kinds of fish and 300 species of migratory birds since 2001.
  • He worked to help craft the 1990 Clean Air Act, although he was at times accused of stalling for the benefit of the auto industry. …
  • He played integral roles in many other important energy and environmental bills, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments [of] 1986 and 1996, Pollution Prevention Act [of] 1990, Energy Policy Act of 1992, National Energy Conservation Policy Act of 1978 and Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975.

May he rest in peace.

Our thoughts are with Mr. Dingell’s wife, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, and their entire family during this difficult time.

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