Sean Crowley

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Sean Crowley is a Media director for Land, Water & Wildlife, Health, Living Cities for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). He is also a former communications director for the U.S. Department of Energy's Assistant Secretary for Energy. [1]


Sean Crowley

EDF Partners with Synagro, The World's Leader in Dumping Sewage Sludge on Farms and Gardens

EDF creates formal corporate partnerships between itself and major corporations, such as the Carlyle Group with which it partnered in March, 2010. [2] The Carlyle Group, a private investment corporation, owns Synagro, the world's largest company producing sewage sludge "compost" and "fertilizer," often called "biosolids," that is dumped on farms and gardens.

According to its own guidelines [3], EDF does accept direct funding from corporations that are engaged "in any significant activities that are in direct conflict with EDF’s environmental protection objectives or activities." This is misleading, since EDF does aggressively seek funding from employees, board members and investors in such corporations, including its formal corporate partners such as Carlyle Group. And EDF also considers on a case by case basis donations from foundations set up by such corporations.

It would seem that by partnering with Synagro EDF is in fact endorsing the practices of Synagro in dumping sludge on farms and gardens, and in misleading millions of people by selling its sewage sludge products as "compost" and "natural organic fertilizer."

Such partnerships are extremely lucrative for EDF since it aggressively fundraises among the individuals on the Boards of Directors, in management, and who are investors in its partners. Meanwhile, the corporate partner such as Carlyle Group can greenwash itself by pointing to its partnership with one of the world's best funded Big Green environmental groups.

In the 1970s and 1980s EDF and other major environmental groups including Natural Resources Defense Council worked closely with the sewage industry and endorsed moves by the Environmental Protection Agency to rename toxic sewage sludge as "biosolids" and dump the waste onto farmland. Until May, 2011, when EDF requested it be removed, the following quote appeared on a sludge industry website showing endorsement of this practice.

"EDF and NRDC have been steadfast proponents of reusing biosolids of appropriate quality as the best biosolids management alternative. Biosolids can be a valuable natural resource."
FRED KRUP, Executive Director - JOHN ADAMS Executive Director
Environmental Defense Fund - Natural Resources Defense Fund"[4]

EDF's Sean Crowley had the quote taken down, and he points out that there is no date or citation for the quote, which likely came from a consent decree among major environmental groups and the sewage sludge industry. While it is partnered with the world's largest sewage sludge company, Synagro of Carlyle Group, Crowley claims that EDF has no position what so ever on the practice of using agricultural farms and gardens as waste dumps for sewage sludge.

NRDC, on the other hand, became a critic of sludge dumping in 2002 and 2003, based on the dioxin contaminants in sewage sludge.

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. EDF website Accessed May 12, 2011.
  2. Carlyle Group Teams Up With EDF, The Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2010.
  3. EDF Corporate Funding Guidelines, 2011
  4. Bio Solids - Notable Quotes, Accessed May 6, 2011.

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