Earthjustice has racked up an impressive string of victories over the years, but no one can remember quite such a concentrated torrent of achievements as we've enjoyed over the two weeks bridging March and April of 2007. Here's a brief rundown:
- March 23: A federal judge in West Virginia ruled that permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers for four mountaintop removal mines in that state violate the federal Clean Water Act. The ruling could have an impact on dozens of pending permits throughout Appalachia.
- March 30: A federal judge in San Francisco overturned an attempt by the Bush administration to rewrite national forest rules in such a way as to all but eliminate the public's opportunity to participate in decisions involving logging on the national forests. As attorney Trent Orr told the Los Angeles Times, "The national forest planning rules are like the Constitution for our national forests, and the Bush administration tried to throw out the Bill of Rights."
Later that same day a federal judge in Seattle ruled that the Forest Service had misrepresented the views of many scientists who argued that a proposed rewrite of the rules protecting salmon streams in the Pacific Northwest would harm fish. The court chided the Forest Service for the misrepresentations and found the rewritten rule illegal.
- April 2: The Supreme Court handed us not one but two major wins. The first, hailed by attorney Howard Fox as "one of the most important environmental cases in history," was the first time the court had addressed global warming. The Environmental Protection Agency had taken the position that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and therefore the agency had no power to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act. The court rejected the administration's position and ordered EPA to consider regulating CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles.
The second involved untility company attempts to evade so-called "new source review" provisions regarding upgrades to several power plants operated by Duke Power. Earthjustice's role in this case involved coordinating the writing and submission of a string of friend-of-the-court briefs and making sure the justices were aware of the significance of a parallel case that Earthjustice litigated at the appeals court for the District of Columbia.
Note the similarities: in every case the Bush administration was trying to evade or ignore federal laws and regulations. And in every case it fell to private organizations, represented by Earthjustice, to go to court to enforce the law.