|National Smog Standards||Earthjustice is fighting for stronger limits on ozone or smog -- pollution linked to premature deaths, thousands of emergency room visits, and tens of thousands of asthma attacks each year. Ozone is especialy dangerous to small children and senior citizens, who are often warned to stay indoors on polluted days. Smog pollution can also severely damage forests and plants, stunting their growth and increasing the risk of die-off from disease. Unfortunately, smog standards recently adopted by the U.S. EPA are far weaker than recommended unanimously by the agency's own science advisors, leaving public health and the environment at great risk. Earthjustice is challenging these standards on behalf of public health and conservation groups.|
|Strengthening Protections for Our Nation's Forests||
In 2007, Earthjustice won its challenge to the Bush administration's 2005 revision of the National Forest Management Act planning regulations, which govern management of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. In response to our win, the Forest Service issued revised regulations. Unfortunately, the revised regulations are virtually the same as the regulations that the court invalidated, and the process by which they were adopted suffers from the same legal infirmities as the 2005 revision. Once again the regulations run counter to the National Forest Management Act, which was passed in 1976 in reaction to rampant overharvesting of commercial timber from the national forests, especially through clearcutting. The Act was expressly intended to reduce the Forest Service's discretion in managing the national forests, placing limits on timber harvesting and promoting the protection of other resources, including wildlife and native plants, watersheds, and recreation, while the revised regulations eliminate precisely those limits and protections.
This suit will challenge the revised regulations.
|Oil Refineries and Hazardous Waste||
As a favor to U.S. oil refineries, EPA has exempted hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous wastes produced at refineries (over 300,000 tons annually) from stringent federal regulation. With a sweep of the pen, these wastes are no longer considered "hazardous" if converted into gas and burned at the refineries. The waste, however, is known to be toxic, carcinogenic and prone to combust spontaneously and thus poses grave hazards to our air, water, and the communities in which it is stored, transported and burned.
Earthjustice has filed suit to strike down this exemption.
|Central Maui Stream Restoration||Earthjustice petitioned the state Commission on Water Resource Management to establish instream flow standards that would sustain beneficial instream uses, such as ecological protection, Native Hawaiian practices, recreation, and scenic values, for Na Wai Eha (The Four Great Waters) in Central Maui. The petition demanded that the water currently being hoarded and wasted by private companies be returned to the streams of origin.|
|Public Liability for Mining Waste Clean-Up||
According to Superfund legislation passed in 1980, the EPA should have developed regulations that required mining companies and other high-risk polluting industires to provide financial proof that in case of toxic spills and other environmental contamination, these companies would be able to clean up the resultant contamination. The EPA has yet to issue these regulations, and some mining companies have declared bankruptcy instead of paying to clean up their sites, leaving the taxpayers with the bill. Without the financial incentive to prevent pollution, these companies have little incentive to improve their waste management.
In February 2009, a United States District Court ruled that the EPA must produce these long overdue regulations for mining companies by May 4, 2009, therefore limiting the public's liability for the damage caused to the environment by poor practices by these companies.
|Rock Creek Mine: Threat to Wildlife||
The proposed Rock Creek Mine project in northwest Montana would be located adjacent to and literally under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area in the Kootenai National Forest. The copper and silver mine's location is in a sensitive portion of grizzly bear habitat, and construction will add sediment to local waters, which would smother bull trout spawning areas.
Since 2001, the Fish & Wildlife Service has issued flawed biological opinions repeatedly, and Earthjustice has repeatedly -- and successfully -- challenged the approval for the mine.
In December 2007, the Fish & Wildlife Service once again gave the mining company approval to begin construction activities, based on a biological opinion that relies on mitigation measures that are not sufficient to protect the populations of grizzly bear. This biological opinion also permits extensive degradation of a portion of Rock Creek previously deemed critical habitat for bull trout.
To allow mining and other mineral development under federally designated wilderness would set a dangerous precedent. Earthjustice is challenging this renewed approval for the mine.
|New York Brownfields||
Thousands of contaminated and abandoned gas stations, factories, other industiral and commercial sites are poisoning the air, land, and water for communities across New York. The state adopted regulations that fall far short of the landmark law passed in 2003 to clean up many of these brownfields.
In February 2008, the court ruled that contaminated sites must be cleaned up to the statutory cleanup objectives, not simply to the contaminated background levels at the site.
|Oil and Gas Lease Sale in the Chukchi Sea||Alaska's Chukchi Sea, part of America's Arctic, provides vital habitat for polar bears, endangered bowhead whales, walrus, beluga whales, seals, fish and marine birds. In recent years, the wildlife and people of this poorly-understood but precious and vibrant region have experienced dramatic impacts from climate change, melting sea ice, declining wildlife populations and eroding shorelines.|
|Herring Trawlers: Threat to New England Fisheries||
The population of groundfish off the coast of New England has been depleted for years. In 1994 nearly all fishing was banned from waters identified as spawning grounds and sanctuaries for cod, haddock, and other groundfish in order to give groundfish a chance to rebound from overfishing.
Herring mid-water trawlers were initially banned from the groundfish-closed areas in 1994. But in 1998 federal regulators decided to re-open these areas to trawlers, based on an assumption that the herring ships would catch little or no groundfish in their nets. As a result of this loophole in the regulations, it's estimated that these vessels have caught hundreds of thousands of pounds of mature and juvenile groundfish as bycatch.
Earthjustice has filed suit on behalf of local fishing groups to force federal regulators to close this loophole.
|Protecting California's Air: Removing Agricultural Exemptions||
California state law used to exempt farms, dairies, and other agricultural operations from getting air permits for pollution from sources such as agricultural dust, diesel irrigation pumps, and livestock waste. This exemption made compliance with the federal Clean Air Act impossible. Earthjustice sued the EPA for allowing California permitting programs to include the exemption, and Earthjustice's victory led California legislators to strip the exemption from the law.
However, EPA staff recently discovered that it unwittingly approved a provision with the older exemption for agricultural sources back in 1972 as part of a larger state implementation law, and could not find any subsequent action to strip the provision. Unless the EPA or the state take affirmative action to remove the provision, it remains federally-enforceable law.
This suit seeks to compel the EPA to remove the provision.
|Challenge to Coalbed Methane Development in HD Mountains||
A proposed natural gas drilling project near Durango, Colorado, will bulldoze roadless forest, worsen air pollution, threaten homes, and pollute wilderness areas and Mesa Verde National Park. The project porposes almost 200 new coalbed methane wells, including approximately 30 wells and 8 to 9 miles of new roads inside the currently undeveloped HD Mountains roadless areas. Despite this, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have approved the permits necessary for the project.
Earthjustice is challenging the project on behalf of conservation groups, homeowners, a rural county, and individuals whose livelihood would be negatively impacted by the drilling as proposed.
|Red Legged Frog: Critical Habitat||
In the spring of 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bowed to industry and developer pressure by issuing a rule that greatly diminished the critical habitat of the endangered California red legged frog. Critical habitat is defined to include those areas that are "essential to the conservation of the species." Also, by law, critical habitat determinations must be made based upon the "best scientific and commercial data available."
Earthjustice discovered through Freedom of Information Act requests that political pressure by officials in the D.C. office, including former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald, rose to the level of improper influence compromising the scientific integrity of the final critical habitat rule. This pressure caused field office scientists to ignore important scientific documents, such as the frog's Recovery Plan, and to exclude from the final rule significant areas of habitat that the FWS had previously determined were "essential to the conservation" of the frog. The result is a final critical habitat rule that does not provide for the recovery of the frog, nor is it based on the best available science.
In September 2008, the FWS published a proposed rule that would significantly increase the critical habitat for the red-legged frog, and Earthjustice settled the lawsuit.
|Improving Energy Efficiency Standards for Electric Transformers||
We've all seen them -- those gray boxes mounted on telephone poles. Those boxes are electricity distribution transformers, and they serve to reduce the power of electric current from the high voltage used in transmission lines to the lower voltages we use in our homes, offices, and businesses.
Some transformers lose a lot more electricity than others, and all those inefficient transformers add up to a huge amount of wasted energy. According to the Department of Energy, if our utility companies started installing only the most efficient transformers available on the market today, the energy we save would avoid the need to construct 20 large-scale power plants by the year 2038.
However, instead of requiring these more efficient models, the DOE selected weak standards for electricity distribution transformers, ignoring the environmental benefits of going to stronger standards.
Earthjustice challenged the adoption of these standards, and in August 2009, the DOE settled the case, agreeing to review existing efficiency standards and propose changes to maximize future savings three year earlier than otherwise required.
|South Shale Ridge Oil and Gas Leasing||
The South Shale Ridge wilderness is home to wildlife and rare plants, and is a popular destination for hikers and hunters. However, the BLM reversed an earlier recommendation to protect the ridge as a Wilderness Study Area and instead leased the vast majority of land for oil and gas drilling.
In August 2007, the Federal District Court in Colorado ruled that the BLM violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it granted the leases, and ordered the BLM to consider the effect of drilling and development on rare species in the area.
|Bonneville Cutthroat Trout Listing||
In 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied to extend protection of the Bonneville cutthroat trout under the Endangered Species Act, despite the fact that the species has been eliminated from 90 percent of its range, due to habitat degradation, predation, and hybridization from non-native trout.
Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, and the Pacific Rivers Council, and in October, 2007, the FWS announced that it has reversed its earlier decision and will consider placing the Bonneville cutthroat trout on the Endangered Species List.