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OBITUARIES / Philip E. Clapp, 1953 - 2008

Environmental activist founded policy group

September 19, 2008|Bettina Boxall | Times Staff Writer

Philip E. Clapp, an environmental advocate with decades of Washington experience who was known for his work on clean air and global warming issues, has died. He was 54.

Clapp, who grew up in Encino and lived in Washington, died Wednesday in Amsterdam from complications of streptococcal pneumonia, friends said.

Clapp was deputy managing director of the Environment Group of the Pew Charitable Trusts and founder of the National Environmental Trust, which merged with Pew this year.

"He was a very strong advocate and an extraordinarily good strategist," said Timothy Wirth, a former Democratic congressman and U.S. senator from Colorado. "That combination is very rare."

Clapp spent nearly a decade on Capitol Hill as Wirth's legislative director and as an associate staff member of the House Budget Committee. He also worked for Common Cause, the National Cable Television Assn., Clean Water Action and a firm that consulted on mergers and acquisitions with major investment companies.

Clapp started the National Environmental Trust, a nonprofit policy and public education group based in Washington, in 1994. As the organization's president, he was an outspoken critic of the Bush administration's energy and global warming policies.

"The president's global warming proposal appears to be another faith-based initiative," Clapp said in a 2002 television interview. "We should have faith that major corporations will line up to volunteer cuts in their carbon pollution. That approach has failed for a decade now."

Clapp traveled around the world to press for action on global warming, and it was apparently on one of his trips that he picked up the pneumonia infection.

Wirth, a longtime friend who is now president of the United Nations Foundation, said Clapp fell ill in Japan this summer. He later flew to London on business and then went to Amsterdam, where he often vacationed. He checked into a hospital there and spent 10 days in intensive care before he died, Wirth said.

Clapp was born Nov. 13, 1953, in Los Angeles, the son of Roger and Vivian Clapp. He graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history and government in 1975, then went to work in Washington. A chain-smoker and a Buddhist, he had a love of British history, read voraciously and always knew the best recordings of his favorite classical composers.

He was also, Wirth said, "fearlessly wicked in his sense of humor. . . . There was nobody like him."

Clapp is survived by his mother and his sister, Lisa Ingalls, both of Los Angeles.


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