Sierra Club stories from the front lines

Seattle organizer receives first organizing award in NW Energy Coalition history

Kathleen ridihalghHonoree Kathleen Ridihalgh brings "art, science,  heart and grit" to inclusive energy coalition work
In its 33-year history, the NW Energy Coalition has honored dozens of groups and individuals for their efforts in advancing clean and affordable energy policy across the region. But it has never honored someone specifically for their on-the-ground success in mobilizing grassroots support for those policy efforts.
That glaring omission was rectified on Thursday, June 12. As part of the Coalition's 2nd annual 4 Under Forty celebration, the inaugural Doug Still Community Organizing Award was given to Kathleen Casey Ridihalgh, senior organizing manager for the Sierra Club.
"Kathleen Ridihalgh sets the standard for organizing in the public interest," said NW Energy Coalition executive director Sara Patton. "She represents everything that award namesake Doug Still stood for, and her years of success bear that out."
Over the past 15 years, Ridihalgh has overseen outreach efforts on many of the Northwest's most important energy, environmental and political issues, from climate change and coal exports, to clean power and transportation, to environmental and economic justice. Her accomplishments include building significant grassroots support for campaigns that have:

  • Won agreements to end coal-fired electricity production in Washington and Oregon.
  • Stopped three of six coal export proposals.
  • Forced transportation planners to address climate concerns and incorporate public transit options in their projects.
  • Made the Northwest's continued reliance on imported coal power a hot-stove topic regionally and nationally.

Through it all, Ridihalgh pushes for inclusion of all those touched by the campaigns, from electric ratepayers and taxpayers to coal-plant workers and local communities.
"Organizing is equal parts art, science, heart and grit," Ridihalgh explained. "The most rewarding times of my career have been helping folks to find their voice and realize they can make a difference against all odds. I have played just a very small part of the huge struggle for equality and justice, but all our small parts add up to great things."
She joined the Sierra Club in 1999, just in time to lead public education events around the game-changing WTO meeting in Seattle. After stepping in as the Club's acting regional director, she assumed her current position in 2006, just as the Club was joining with the Coalition and other allies to lead passage of Washington state's clean energy law, Initiative 937.
Since then, Ridihalgh commended the Coalition for creating the Doug Still Organizing Award and said she was honored to be its first recipient.
-- Meg Matthews, Sierra Club