Skip to main content

A Year of Victories: 2012

By the end of 2012, Earthjustice, with our partners and clients, had won broad victories on a number of fronts.

Read about three of these far-reaching achievements—and look back on the dozens of other victories for the Earth that you helped us achieve that year.

The Historic Clean Air Win

After more than a decade of Earthjustice litigation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposes the first-ever clean air protections against the nation's dirtiest polluters—coal-fired power plants.

Coal-fired power plants are America's worst toxic polluters. Their air pollution is linked to asthma, heart problems and thyroid problems. It sends people to the hospital, and causes them to miss work and school.

Worst of all, it leads to thousands of premature deaths every year—especially among vulnerable populations like children and the elderly.

Each year, coal-fired power plants emit thousands of tons of toxic pollutants like mercury and arsenic into the air. Yet, for decades, the pollution from these plants has been exempted from the Clean Air Act.

After more than a decade of Earthjustice's determined litigation on behalf of community, environmental and public health groups, the EPA released protections that will clean up toxic air emissions from power plants across the country.

The new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will save thousands of lives and prevent more than 100,000 heart and asthma attacks each year. In addition, the regulations will result in reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide and fine particles, which will further clean up the air.

Learn More:

Yellowstone Grizzlies Rest Easy

grizzly bear in alaska
blmiers2 / flickr
Grizzly bears win key protections when a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals finally acknowledges the food crisis in Yellowstone National Park.

Before the first Europeans stepped onto North American soil, the grizzly bear numbered in the tens of thousands. But by 1975, after years of rampant hunting and habitat destruction, only about a thousand remained in the lower-48.

Now hunting has given way to a new foe— rising temperatures.

In Yellowstone National Park, for example, one of the bear's primary food sources, fatty whitebark pine seeds, is being wiped out by mountain pine beetles that are now able to survive the winter due to warmer temperatures.

In 2007, the Bush administration erroneously considered Yellowstone's grizzly bears recovered enough to be removed from the endangered species list. Two years later, Earthjustice attorneys convinced a court to overturn the decision. The bears were returned to "threatened" status based on the documented rapid demise of whitebark pine.

Prior to Earthjustice's involvement, many had never heard of these trees nor of their value as a food source to grizzly bears.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's ruling, securing protections for an estimated 540–660 threatened grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also concluded that whitebark pine itself is an endangered species.

Earthjustice Client — Executive Director, Greater Yellowstone Coalition Mike Clark:

"This favorable ruling on behalf of greater Yellowstone's grizzlies is a direct result of Earthjustice's continued exceptional work in protecting this special ecosystem."

Learn More:

Savoring the Sweet Taste of Victory

The maker of cancer-causing fumigant methyl iodide pulls the federal registration for the pesticide, ensuring that the dangerous chemical will not be used anywhere in the country.

A child holds strawberries in his or her hands.

It can cause late-term miscarriages, thyroid disease and brain damage. Scientists consider it to be one of the most toxic chemicals on Earth. And yet, in 2007 the Bush administration approved the widespread use of methyl iodide in agricultural fields across the country.

California, which requires a separate review of new pesticides before they can be used on crops within its borders, soon followed suit after intense lobbying pressure from the manufacturer.

The state's approval opened the door for millions of pounds of methyl iodide to be applied to many of California's prolific produce fields, including 38,000 acres of strawberry fields.

In March 2011, Earthjustice petitioned the EPA to cancel its registration of methyl iodide. Earthjustice also sued California for illegally approving its use.

This legal pressure, coupled with an intense national outcry over the fumigant's approval, led pesticide manufacturer Arysta LifeScience to pull the toxic chemical out of the U.S. market in March 2012. Eight months later, the company cancelled federal registration of the pesticide, ensuring that methyl iodide will no longer be used in the U.S. by 2013.

Learn More:

Earthjustice Attorney, Greg Loarie:

"This is a chemical that never should have been allowed in the first place. All Americans are safer today because of the removal of the cancer-causing farm chemical methyl iodide."

EJ90: Environmental News in 90 Seconds
is a weekly podcast exploring the latest
in Earthjustice litigation. Subscribe.

This victory protects farmworkers, local families and consumers throughout America.