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Our Cases

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:

Lake Okeechobee Backpumping, Florida

Millions of gallons of polluted water coming off of half a million acres of sugar cane fields and cities are pumped into Lake Okeechobee by the South Florida Water Management District. The discharge contaminates drinking water supplies and fertilizes toxic blue-green algae blooms. Earthjustice filed suit demanding the district obtain Clean Water Act permits for its discharges and comply with water quality standards in the lake. 

On December 11, 2006, a federal district judge in Miami ruled that the district must comply with the Clean Water Act. And on Jun 15, 2007, a federal court issued an injunction requiring the South Florida Water Management District to apply for pollution permits to engage in pumping dirty water into the lake.

As a result of our victory in court, one of the larger landowners near Lake Okeechobee, U.S. Sugar -- which farming operations resulted in polluted water being pumped back into Lake Okeechobee -- negotiated with the state of Florida to sell its 185,000 acres of lands and shut down the sugar growing and processing operations. With large-scale sugar processing phased out, once again the natural flow of water will return and help to restore the Everglades. 

Okinawa Dugong & Proposed Airbase The American military is trying to force the Japanese government to build a new airbase on a reef used by endangered dugong (cousin to the Florida manatee) for feeding and resting. In January 2008, a federal judge ruled against the Department of Defense, ordering the DoD to consider the impact of the base on the dugong's habitat.
Central Valley Steelhead Intervention A group of irrigation districts has filed suit to strip Endangered Species Act protections from steelhead trout that spawn in rivers that flow through the Central Valley in California. Earthjustice represents fishing organizations and conservation groups trying to maintain the protections.
Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout Listing Ninety-nine percent of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout's original habitat is lost and 95% of its remaining population is subject to existing threats. But the Fish and Wildlife Service has refused to protect it under the Endangered Species Act so Earthjustice is asking for a court order.
International Right to a Healthy Environment Earthjustice is involved in an effort to persuade the United Nations that the right to a safe, healthy, and healthful environment is a basic human right and, as such, is protected by various existing human rights agreements and conventions. Considerable progress has been made.
Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog: ESA Protection A couple of years ago conservationists sued to gain Endangered Species Act protection for the yellow-legged frog in the Sierra Nevada. The government stalled, then said the species was "warranted but precluded" from protection. The suit now seeks to overturn that decision.
Sierra Framework Appeal Environmental groups have challenged the revised Sierra Framework that would triple the volume of logging on the eleven national forests in California's Sierra Nevada, while at the same time eviscerating species protections contained in the original plan, particularly for the California spotted owl and the Pacific fisher.
Peruvian Smelter Emits Toxic Pollutants The people (especially the children) who live in La Oroya, in the Peruvian Andes, have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. The source is a smelter operated by a company based in Missouri. Earthjustice is working to persuade the company to provide desperately needed medical care.

Orcas in Puget Sound An extended family of orca whales has made Puget Sound and associated waters its home for thousands of years. Numbers have declined sharply in recent years but it took a win in court to prod the government into protecting them. Earthjustice is keeping a close watch.
Methanex Corp. Challenges US Environmental Protections MTBE is a gasoline additive that has contaminated groundwater, provoking a decision by California to phase out its use. The manufacturer in turn sued the United States, demanding nearly a billion dollars to compensate for lost profits. Earthjustice has intervened to block the blackmail.
Public Participation in Trade Negotiations The US Trade Representative is negotiating several trade agreements and refuses to reveal any details to the public, even though the documents have been freely circulated to the governments participating in the negotiations. Earthjustice has filed suit to force release of the documents.
Florida Irrigation: Farming Practices Destroying Trees

Tomato growers in Florida use so much irrigation water that it floods downstream lands and has killed thousands of acres of bottomland hardwoods. Earthjustice sued on behalf of a downstream nature center to force the farmers to contain their irrigation water.

In October 2008, Earthjustice won an appeal of this case. The Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland decided that a trial court improperly dismissed the case on the theory that the water management district could not be required to stop the flooding.

Waiahole Water Rights Nearly a century ago, water vital to taro farmers, streams, and the estuary on O`ahu's east side was diverted to sugar plantations through the Waiahole Ditch system. The plantations are gone now, and Earthjustice represents farmers and Native Hawaiians in an effort to restore the water to the streams where it belongs. Earthjustice's efforts yielded the first return of water to Hawai'i's streams in history, and it continues to fight for more restoration, and is opposing further diversions of water from the system.
Pila`a Coral Reef Protection

The developer of a luxury subdivision on Kaua`i neglected to put in erosion-control measures. The resulting runoff damaged a coral reef essential to wildlife, subsistence fishermen, swimmers, divers and others. Earthjustice filed suit to force the developer to fix the problem and is currently monitoring a settlement agreement requiring ecosystem restoration. The settlement also imposed the largest civil penalty ever assessed for violations of the Clean Water Act at a single site.

Northwest Salmon Protections Organizations representing various industry groups have filed several suits trying to strip away Endangered Species Act protection from salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Earthjustice has intervened to defend the protections, on the theory that hatcheries can replace wild salmon and their habitat.