“There are far too many violations and far too few prosecutions for the state’s enforcement efforts to create a credible deterrent to breaking the law. If it is cheaper for companies to ignore our environmental laws than it is to abide by the laws, there is an economic incentive to ignore the laws. Unfortunately, that’s what is happening.”
–Joan Mulhern, VPIRG’s Summer 1993 newsletter
When Joan Mulhern passed away in December, we lost perhaps the most tenacious defender of Vermont’s environment and public health that VPIRG– and perhaps Vermont – has ever known. Joan was just 51.
Her leadership and legacy were honored by a House Resolution today, which is available online.
Though Joan would later serve as both VPIRG’s development director and associate director, she was initially hired in 1985 to run our first summer canvass. It was the success of that first door-to-door outreach program that paved the way for this past summer’s record-breaking canvass in which VPIRG staff knocked on more than 70,000 doors across the state.
Joan was smart, direct and persistent. She knew her issues inside and out, and when it came to standing up to powerful interests who threatened our environment, she operated on a seemingly endless reservoir of courage. As VPIRG’s advocate, she took aim at ozone depleting chemicals, industrial releases of toxic pollution, golf course pesticides, trash incineration and much, much more.
After leaving VPIRG, Joan attended law school and later became Senior Legislative Counsel with Earthjustice. At Earthjustice, she led the organization’s efforts to save Appalachian waters and communities by ending the disastrous practice of mountaintop removal mining.
To say that Joan will be missed would not do justice to the magnitude of this loss. She was a genuine environmental hero. She was and will remain an inspiration.