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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:

False Killer Whale Longline Defense For years, the National Marine Fisheries Service has illegally ignored its own data, which show the Hawai'i-based longline fleet currently is injuring and killing false killer whales at over twice the level the population can sustain. In 2004, under pressure from an Earthjustice lawsuit, the National Marine Fisheries Service finally re-classified the Hawai'i-based longline fishery as "Category I" -- a designation for fisheries that annually kill and seriously harm marine mammals at unstainable rates -- due to its excessive incidental take of Hawai'i's false killer whales.  Pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, this recategorization should have triggered the prompt establishment of a take reduction team to devise a plan to bring the fishery's incidental take "to insignificant levels approaching a zero mortality and serious injury rate." NMFS has failed to do so, claiming inadequate funding. At the same time, NMFS has never applied the congressionally-mandated factors to allocate resources where insufficient funding is available for all required take reduction actions.
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.
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.

Honolulu Irradiator Earthjustice has been fighting to ensure adequate environmental review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of an application to build a Cobalt-60 irradiator to treat fruit and vegetables for fruit flies at a site located in a tsunami evacuation zone and near active runways at the Honolulu International Airport, residential neighborhoods and schools.
Biopharm Algae The State of Hawai'i's Board of Agriculture approved a permit to allow the importation of algae genetically engineered to produce drugs on the Kona coast of the Big Island. Earthjustice sued, and the Court has ordered that the Board's approval without a review of potential environmental impacts of the project was invalid.
Shoreline Certification Rules A state board's improper definition of shoreline is contributing to the loss of beaches throughout Hawai'i.
Albatross Listing Petition

The black-footed albatross, decimated long ago by hunters, is now being threatened by longline fisheries. Earthjustice filed a petition to get the species protected under the Endangered Species Act. In October 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that listing the albatross may be warranted, and is now deliberating whether to do so.

Iao, Waihe`e Aquifers Groundwater Management Seeks to designate the `Iao and Waihe`e Aquifers on Maui as ground water management areas under the Hawai`i State Water Code, thereby turning over management of the aquifers to the State Commission on Water Resource Management.
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.