Tom Graff, R.I.P.

by Steven F. Hayward

I don’t normally get to the obits page of the Washington Post, so it was only by chance that I happened to catch the obituary today for Tom Graff, who died at 65 from thyroid cancer a few days ago.

Graff was the head of Environmental Defense in Oakland, and as such you wouldn’t think he’d be someone to get a shoutout on Planet Gore, but Tom was exactly the kind of market-oriented environmentalist with whom it was easy to break bread. I used to know him when I worked out in the Bay Area, and he would always delight in attacking Gov. Pete Wilson from the right on water policy, remarking to me one time (circa 1990) that Wilson’s water plans “were more like something Gorbachev would do” than a genuine market reform. 

The Post obit suggests some of this, but doesn’t capture how wholly market-friendly Graff was. He seemed to attract similar-minded folks to the ED office in Oakland, including economists who endorsed road pricing rather than mass-transit boondoggles as the cure for traffic congestion. Graff and his crew were probably outliers even in the ED community (Graff admitted one time he didn’t always see eye-to-eye with HQ in New York). If there were more “mainstream” environmentalists like Graff, a rapprochement between Right and Green would be easier to imagine.

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