Earthjustice attorneys represent public-interest clients concerned about threats to the environment and hold accountable those who jeopardize the health of our planet. Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters, we provide expert legal support free of charge to groups large and small. Several of the most important legal battles for this year can be found at the 2014 Legal Docket.
Our complete legal docket includes about 300 active cases. Learn about some of our recent and historical cases:
|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.
|Smog & Soot: National Standards Review & Revision||This 2003 lawsuit set the stage for limits on smog pollution from power plants and other sources. We negotiated deadlines with the Environmental Protection Agency to propose standards for ozone, a precursor to smog, by June 20, 2007. The EPA's weak protections mean more pollution for our cities and neighborhoods.|
|Hatchery Listing Policy||
The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) adopted a policy that would require fisheries scientists to count hatchery-bred salmon along with the population of wild salmon when making endangered species assessments.
Earthjustice sued on behalf of several conservation groups and groups of fishing enthusiasts, and on June 13, 2007, a federal court agreed that the policy was scientifically flawed and inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act.
|Glades Power Plant||
Florida Power & Light has proposed building a massive coal-fired power plant on the northwest shore of Lake Okeechobee, at the edge of the Florida Everglades. Coal-fired power plants are among the nation's largest sources of air pollution, and spew greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide which can accelerate global warming. As a result of these and other polluting emissions, including mercury, the proposed Glades plant would also further degrade the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, and local estuaries.
Earthjustice challenged the permits on behalf of several conservation groups. On June 5, 2007, the Florida Public Service Commission voted unanimously to reject the proposal.
|Marbled Murrelet Delisting Intervention||
Timber industry attorneys tried to force the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove the threatened marbeled murrelet from the Endangered Species Act. Earthjustice represented several conservation groups requesting "intevenor" status in the lawsuit.
On February 2008, a federal district court rejected the timber industry's suit. In a related matter a few weeks later, the FWS announced that it would not finalize a proposal that would have slashed murrelet habitat by almost 95 percent.
In July 2008, a federal judge in Washington, DC, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals both ruled in favor of retaining federal Endangered Species Act protections for the marbled murrelet.
|Sunflower Coal Plant Permit||
A permit for the construction of a massive, coal-fired power plant in western Kansas was issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. This proposed plant will emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, including mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. The plant will burn coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, and use water from the declining Ogallala Aquifer (also known as the High Plains Aquifer). Earthjustice is contesting the permit.
|Genetically Engineered Sugar Beets||
The genetic engineering of our agricultural products has created serious environmental problems and numerous questions about health and safety. The great majority of genetically engineered ("GE") crops are engineered to be resistant to a specific weed killer, glyphosate (known commercially as "Roundup," owned and marketed by Monsanto). These crops, known as "Roundup Ready," allow farmers to apply large quantities of glyphosate to their fields without harming the crop, but this practice accelerates the evolution of herbicide-resistant "superweeds." Farmers then apply greater and greater quantities of Roundup to try to kill these weeds, and when this fails, they use even more toxic herbicides. Also, the GE crops themselves can cross-pollinate or become mixed with other related crops nearby, contaminating their conventional or organic counterparts.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, approved for commercial production genetically modified sugar beets without assessing the environmental, health, and economic impacts of these Roundup Ready beets, to the dismay of organic farmers, conservationists, and food-safety experts.
Earthjustice sued the USDA on behalf of organic seed producers and conservationists to get the deregulation of genetically-modified beets reversed until a full environmental impact statement is performed. In September 2009, the court agreed the USDA had violated the law and must prepare an EIS. Earthjustice is now seeking an injunction to stop further production of the sugar beets in the meantime.
|Cement Kiln Emissions Challenge||This lawsuit challenges the EPA's continued refusal to set mercury emissions standards for cement kilns, in violation of the Clean Air Act. The EPA estimates that more than 100 cement kilns emit over 23,000 pounds of mercury each year.|
|Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat||
The Fish and Wildlife Service approved several timber sales in areas nominally protected as critical habitat for the northern spotted owl. Earthjustice sued to stop the sales. In February 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals ruled that the FWS violated the Endangered Species Act when it approved the sales.
|Inyo County RS 2477 Quiet Title Act Intervention||Earthjustice intervened in a case to defend designated national park wilderness in Death Valley from being opened to highway construction and vehicle use.|
|Challenge to National Clean Air Standards for Airborne Particulates||
On October 17, 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency refused to strengthen the annual primary particulate matter standard, despite the nearly unanimous recommendation from its own Clean Air Science Advisory Committee that the standard be strengthened. In addition, EPA refused to adopt a more protective secondary standard to protect visibility, and revoked another annual standard for clean air. Earthjustice challenged this action, and in February 2009, a federal court ruled that these Bush-era clean air standards were deficient, and sent them back to EPA for corrective action.
|Bluefin Tuna Bycatch in the Gulf of Mexico||The population of the western Atlantic bluefin tuna has been steadily declining in the past 20 years. In fact, the most recent assessment published by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna shows both that the population is at its lowest level ever, and that fishing pressure is at its highest point ever. A recent scientific study showed that bluefin tuna spawn in the Gulf of Mexico during the months of January through June, and that they were being killed as bycatch by the longliners targeting yellowfin tuna. Several conservation groups filed a petition in June of 2005 asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to close the bluefin spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico to all longline boats during spawning season. The agency refused to close the spawning grounds. Earthjustice is challenging the decision, since the agency ignored important scientific data when formulating its rule.|