Bruce French


"The majority of people agree on the important things. Everybody wants a clean environment. I think a problem in our country is that we accentuate the disagreements rather than working towards a common ground. "

bankruptcy law, organizing



Bruce French was associated with Allen County Citizens for the Environment when he first became familiar with Ohio Citizen Action. The group formed in 1987-88 in response to a permit application by BP America for a hazardous waste incinerator in Allen County. The group developed significant public opinion against that permit through a series of public hearings and engaged in public education. Allen County Citizens for the Environment was able to stop the waste incinerator in a compromise. Bruce has mixed feelings about the victory. "I'm not sure, in retrospect, if it was a great outcome, but in terms of what was the kind of thinking at that time in the environmental movement - it was better to have a deep well injection as opposed to burning in the air. That seemed in terms of what was then known to be a better approach. I'm not sure I still feel that way fifteen years later."

Antioch Law School days
Bruce, a lawyer, teaches at Ohio Northern University College of Law. "My earliest encounter with environmental issues was actually in kind of an ironic manner in that I was working at the time at the White House under President Nixon. I wrote some of the papers and pieces of speeches that the President gave to both support and create the U.S. EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality. My environmental work essentially comes from the federal level and then in terms of Lima, in particular -- one of the early ringleaders of ACCE was a woman named Noreen Christoff who died along the way. Noreen was a wife of one of the faculty members of Ohio Northern. I was fond of both of them. I got involved specifically as a result of knowing her and stayed involved in memory of her."

In college, Bruce canvassed for CARE, a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty and also for the Arrow Foundation, a group that advocated for Native Americans' rights. He knew what to expect when he was visited by an Ohio Citizen Action canvasser at his home in Lima. "What struck me at the time was both the sincerity of the canvasser as well as a detailed knowledge of the environment and public policy in Ohio. I gave money at the door having, at that point, not heard of Ohio Citizen Action. That was largely based on a favorable impression of the people who represented the organization."