In 2016, thanks to the generous investment and partnership of our supporters, more than one hundred Earthjustice attorneys pursued hundreds of legal cases on behalf of clients across the country.
As the year ends in the midst of a transition to a new presidential administration and political arena that will likely be very challenging to the issues we all care deeply about, Earthjustice will work overtime in the courts to continue doing what we do best. We will hold those who break our nation’s laws accountable for their actions. It’s what we have done for 45 years. Our courtroom fights remain the last lines of defense for many crucial public health and environmental protections. We are in these fights for the long haul.
Take a look back at a few moments from Earthjustice’s work this year, from a community in Albany's South End to a Pacific island, from the halls of Capitol Hill to the court of law.
Speaking before Canada's National Energy Board, Kristen presented oral arguments against a proposed new tar sands pipeline. An alliance of Northwest U.S. Tribes—the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Tulalip Tribes, Suquamish Tribe and Lummi Nation, represented by Earthjustice—intervened in 2013 in Canadian permit proceedings over the TransMountain pipeline. The U.S. Tribes’ position before the NEB represented a critical call to safeguard the Salish Sea from increased oil tanker traffic and greater risk of oil spills.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave the green light to the TransMountain pipeline on November 29. Earthjustice continues to work alongside tribal nations in the United States and Canada who oppose the pipeline. Experts have acknowledged that a serious oil spill would devastate an already-stressed marine environment and likely lead to collapses in the remaining salmon stocks and extinction of southern resident killer whales.
Based in Seattle, Kristen has been a staff attorney at Earthjustice since 1999. She has also worked to defend the endangered marbled murrelet and old-growth forests, as well as on Klamath River fish and water issues, protection of wild salmon and their habitat, and clean water in Idaho and Montana.
A Los Angeles suburb in the San Fernando Valley, the Porter Ranch community is located near the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. In late 2015, a gas well failure led to a massive, months-long methane leak. Adrian Martinez and Los Angeles-based staff of the California office worked with Food & Water Watch and Save Porter Ranch as they went before the South Coast Air Quality Management District Hearing Board. The groups sought to shut down Aliso Canyon facility because laws and regulations are not in place to allow the old and deteriorated facility to operate safely.
Methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, is the second-biggest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide. Communities across the nation face impacts from fossil fuel infrastructure, whether oil and gas wells in neighborhoods or massive refinery complexes. Earthjustice is working to ensure our laws are strongly upheld, and potentially crafting new legislation and regulations, so that aging fossil fuel facilities that are ubiquitous throughout the nation do not harm the health and welfare of residents.
Based in the Los Angeles, Adrian's work focuses on clean air, clean energy and environmental justice issues. He was born in North Carolina and joined Earthjustice in 2013.
Brettny descended in a submersible to inspect corals at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, before the Army Corps begins a dredging and port expansion project to make way for larger, Panama-sized vessels. That dredging project may prove disastrous for threatened coral in the area like it did in Miami last year. At the Port of Miami, where the Army Corps completed a similar dredging project, it buried alive more than 200 football fields of coral reef habitat and killed hundreds of coral colonies.
Brettny and the Oceans Program team are representing a coalition of environmental and SCUBA organizations in a federal court lawsuit seeking protections for coral reefs near Port Everglades. The Florida reef tract is the only living, near-shore barrier coral reef system in the continental United States and a national treasure.
Brettny first joined Earthjustice with the Alaska office in 2012. She now works with the Oceans Program and is based in San Francisco.
John Aʻana, a taro farmer, shows Kylie the stagnant orange water downstream from a diversion on Waiakoali Stream, one of the headwaters of Kauaʻi’s Waimea River. Hawaiʻi law enshrines water resources as a protected public trust. After years of Earthjustice litigation and community activism, water is finally making its way back to its rightful beneficiaries: the people of Hawaiʻi. But there is still more work to be done to enforce the law that water is a public trust resource.
In one of several ongoing cases, corporate water users on Kauaʻi are refusing to give back water from the Waimea River—instead, dumping it over cliffs and into dry gullies. Earthjustice has filed a legal petition to restore stream flow and end water waste.
Raised in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, Kylie moved to Hawaiʻi in 2006 and joined the Mid-Pacific office in Honolulu in 2015.
In the community room at Ezra Prentice Homes, Chris met with concerned residents and family members who have been working to prevent their community from being turned into a major oil transport hub.
Alongside a team in the Northeast office, Chris has represented residents of Ezra Prentice Homes and several environmental groups since 2014 in a lawsuit challenging the lack of a full environmental review for a proposed expansion of operations at a crude oil terminal owned by Global Companies. Ezra Prentice Homes is a public housing development at the fenceline of Global’s Albany facility.
In July, a New York appellate court handed down a decision that kept Global’s tar sands project from being fast-tracked for approval. And then on September 16, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, in a stunning about-face, notified Global that it will need to submit a new application and conduct a comprehensive environmental review to continue operations, rather than simply renewing its existing permit.
Based in New York, Chris joined the Northeast office in 2013.
Adrienne was speaking at a meeting nearby when a Union Pacific train carrying volatile Bakken crude oil derailed in the town of Mosier, Oregon, along the Columbia River. Four cars caught fire. Emergency responders evacuated a quarter of the town’s residents. Unusually calm winds saved this derailment from becoming an even greater disaster.
In the Pacific Northwest, Earthjustice attorneys have been at the forefront of the battle to stop proposed fossil fuel export terminals fed by railways. There are plenty of good reasons to oppose plans to build the coal and oil transportation depots: oil trains derail and cause disasters, crowds of tankers would threaten spills in the Salish Sea and communities would be bisected by staggering increases in rail traffic—all so we can lock in even more dependence on polluting fossil fuels. Communities across the Pacific Northwest have built a passionate and effective movement to stop these projects, and they are winning.
Based in San Francisco, Adrienne leads the strategy and litigates to advance Earthjustice’s work to keep fossil fuels in the ground. A champion for environmental justice, she has long held a passion for climate justice.
Abigail traveled to Alaska to accompany a team including Marie Claire's Creative Director Nina Garcia, author and journalist Kimberly Cutter, and National Geographic photographer and conservationist Pete McBride to elevate consciousness on the urgent need for climate action. Read Abigail's notes from the three packed days.
Forward progress will entail hard-fought battles in the courts and in Congress to preserve our strong environmental laws. Fortunately, public support for clean air and clean water is strong, and we have powerful legal tools to prevent the weakening of health and environmental protections. If the new administration is as hostile to the environment as the Trump campaign would suggest, states can become the foil to the federal government. And cities can, too, because climate solutions begin at the city scale. With or without the support of the president, the majority of people in the U.S. who care about climate change can force progress.
Based in San Francisco, Abigail leads the organization's litigation and legal advocacy to achieve the essential shift from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy.
In the East Fork Bull River drainage of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, Katherine hiked through lush cedar forests to see areas that would be most impacted by a proposed silver and copper mine. The Montanore mine threatens to damage wilderness habitat for centuries to come.
The Cabinet Mountains of northwest Montana offer one of the region's last remaining strongholds for bull trout and grizzly bears—species that are threatened with extinction across their range. It is also home to some of the purest waters left in the United States. The Montanore Mine would extract 20,000 tons of ore each day from tunnels bored beneath the wilderness. Representing Save Our Cabinets, Earthworks and Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice is taking the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service to court to enforce Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears and bull trout in the Cabinet Mountains.
Attorneys in the Northern Rockies office are filing legal briefs in the case this winter, and anticipate a hearing in federal court in the new year.
Katherine joined Earthjustice's office in Bozeman in 2013. She has worked on protection of wolves and wilderness, Clean Air Act enforcement regarding regional haze in Wyoming, and broader public disclosure of fracking chemicals.
On a trip to the islands of Pågan and Tinian, David Henkin visited the site of an ancient meeting house at Masålok on Tinian with Deborah Fleming, a member of the Tinian Women’s Association.
Plans by the U.S. Navy to begin staging massive live-fire war games on the islands of Tinian and Pågan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands would severely disrupt communities on Tinian and shatter the dreams of families who want to return to live permanently on Pågan. The Tinian Women’s Association, Guardians of Gani’, PåganWatch and Center for Biological Diversity, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit on July 26 challenging this plan.
Communities on Tinian—mostly indigenous Chamorro and low-income residents—would be subjected to high-decibel noise, as well as restricted access to traditional fishing grounds, cultural sites and recreational beaches. Cultural and historic sites would be destroyed. Indigenous Chamorro and Refaluwasch (Carolinian) families evacuated from Pågan in 1981 would never be able to return, their former home turned into a militarized wasteland. The groups represented by Earthjustice have been fighting this proposal since it was first made public in 2013.
Above, upright stones, known as latte columns, once supported the meeting house structure. The area is of cultural significance, both due to the presence of the archeological sites and because local families go there to collect traditional medicine and red peppers for subsistence. Masålok lies within the Military Lease Area, and proposed training would restrict public access.
David joined the Mid-Pacific office in Honolulu in 1995. He has filed cases on a wide variety of issues, including the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, and various Hawaiʻi environmental laws.
Todd stands by an Idaho creek that flows into critical salmon habitat. All remaining Snake River salmon are facing extinction because four aging dams in Washington stand between them and the pristine, cold water streams in central Idaho and beyond where they return to spawn.
For nearly two decades, Todd and the Northwest office have represented conservation and fishing groups in court, challenging federal agency plans that fail to protect threatened and endangered Snake River salmon. During this time, five federal plans have been declared illegal by three federal judges.
The most recent court decision, issued on May 4, rejected the foundation for these failed salmon plans. Significantly, it dismantled the paradigm of trying to restore endangered Snake River salmon without considering major modification or removal of some dams.
Now, the government must change course and we have a unique opportunity to get it right: save wild salmon by removing four out-dated dams and restoring a free-flowing lower Snake River. Agencies held more than a dozen public meetings in the Pacific Northwest throughout the fall and winter to gather public input for developing a new plan to save endangered wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. More than 100,000 people have already submitted comments calling for removal of the lower Snake River dams. (You can join them in taking action.)
Todd joined Earthjustice in 1987 as one of two attorneys who opened the Seattle office. He has worked on landmark environmental cases, including a series of cases between 1988 and 1994 to protect the northern spotted owl and Northwest ancient forests.
Andrea accompanied young scientist Emma Turgeon and her Hyperbolics team members through the Dirksen Senate Office Building during a day of meetings. The FIRST® Lego® League robotics team had traveled to Washington, D.C., from South Carolina to urge the Environmental Protection Agency and Congress to clean up lead contamination.
Protecting children, workers, consumers, and communities from toxic chemicals is a priority for the Healthy Communities team at Earthjustice. For years, Earthjustice has been advocating and litigating to protect children from exposure to numerous sources of lead.
Andrea joined Earthjustice in 2012 to develop and implement legislative and administrative strategy for Earthjustice’s environmental health issue priorities. She works with Congress and federal agencies to strengthen our national chemicals policy to protect the public and the most vulnerable segments of our population from hazardous waste and pesticides that threaten their health and well-being in their workplaces and communities.
Shannon passes through Penn Treaty Park as he walks to the Coal Program's office in Philadelphia. Earthjustice is at the center of the essential fight to transform our country’s energy sector into one that is clean, renewable, and modern. And a core part of that fight is our work to end our nation’s reliance on dirty, expensive, and outdated coal-fired power plants.
In Ohio, Shannon and the Coal Program team are litigating against proposals by major utilities to force customers to prop up outdated power plants. The proposals could cost customers billions of dollars, while guaranteeing profits for corporate shareholders who should instead be investing in clean energy resources. Earthjustice, representing the Sierra Club, has been carrying out in-the-trenches litigation to protect customers and the environment from these misguided proposals.
Shannon leads Earthjustice in pushing the nation to become less dependent on its aging coal fleet, stopping uneconomic investments in dirty power plants, and making way for untapped renewable energy resources and innovation in energy efficiency.
Jan and Stephanie have been representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in a federal lawsuit concerning the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline, a fight linked with an historic movement for indigenous rights that captured international attention in 2016. Here, they share a rare quiet moment at Earthjustice’s office in Seattle.
Filed on July 27, the lawsuit challenged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for violating the National Historic Preservation Act and other federal laws, after the agency issued final permits for the pipeline. On December 4, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all who stood in solidarity over the last few months won a major victory when the Army Corps announced it would not be granting an easement under Lake Oahe for the Dakota Access pipeline to cross the Missouri River a half mile upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. (Read Jan's commentary on what happens next, following the Dec. 4 announcement.)
Jan has been a part of the Northwest office since 1998. During that time, he has successfully litigated on regional and national issues including listings of salmon under the Endangered Species Act, stormwater pollution, coal-fired power plants, and forestry.
Stephanie joined the Northwest office from the Navajo Nation in 2015.
Yana and Trent met with members of Restore the Delta to prepare testimony for an upcoming court hearing. Earthjustice is representing the grassroots organization in ongoing hearings before California’s State Water Resources Control Board that will determine the future of the Twin Tunnels proposal.
It is one of a series of legal battles Earthjustice is involved in related to areas affected by California's multi-year drought. The battles include litigation against destructive fracking practices, fighting for strong protections of endangered fish species, and the renegotiation of long-term water contracts with corporate agriculture interests that were established under an inadequate and since-invalidated biological opinion.
As an environmental justice advocate, Yana’s experience has been focused on facility permitting, local and state agency oversight and enforcement, information access, and public participation in environmental decisionmaking.
Trent joined Earthjustice as a staff attorney in 2008. His work has included twice defeating attempts by the Bush Administration to gut regulations that protect our national forests, and invalidating a plan for pumping water from California rivers that would have pushed several imperiled fish toward extinction.
At the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Ted presented oral arguments defending a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on one million acres adjacent to Grand Canyon. Ted met with supporters of the ban, including Native Americans and conservation groups, outside the courtroom following the hearing.
Then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued the ban in 2012, prohibiting new mining claims and limiting mine development on existing claims. The ban had been called for by Arizona’s governor, local governments, Native American tribes, recreationists, and conservation groups concerned about the impact of a uranium mining boom on pure groundwater, cultural resources, and the iconic landscapes surrounding Grand Canyon. Uranium pollution already plagues the Grand Canyon and surrounding area. A mining industry lawsuit asserted that the Interior Department’s exhaustive two-year study, culminating in a 700-page evaluation of environmental impacts, was inadequate.
The Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and National Parks Conservation Association, represented by Earthjustice, intervened in the lawsuit and has been working to defend the uranium mining ban since 2012.
Ted joined Earthjustice's office in Denver in 2002. He works to protect some of the most iconic landscapes in the West, roadless areas and the planet's climate, on behalf of conservation groups in the Four Corners' states.