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:
|Badger-Two Medicine Travel Plan Intervention||
The Badger-Two Medicine region represents 130,000 acres of National Forest land located in Montana's Rocky Mountain Front -- where the eastern slope of the Rockies meets the Great Plains -- and sandwiched between the south boundary of Glacier National Park and the Great Bear and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas. Located amidst some of our nation's most impressive wildlands, the Badger-Two Medicine hosts numerous rare and sensitive wildlife species, including grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, wolverines, bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain goats. It also constitutes a land of special cultural importance to the Blackfeet Tribe, whose reservation it borders. The region is also almost entirely unroaded, presenting a de facto wilderness occupying a critical wildlife movement corridor along the eastern Rocky Mountain Front.
|Utah Resource Management Plans and Lease Sale Challenge||
In late 2008, the Bush administration attempted to cement its pro-development philosophy in the BLM's land management plans applicable to Utah's public lands for decades to come. These public lands include areas adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument, and Ninemile and Desolation Canyons. The development authorized under these plans will have severe impacts on wildlife, rivers and streams, cultural resources, and air quality in some of Utah's most spectacular places.
On behalf of several conservation groups, Earthjustice filed suit in December 2008. In January 2009, Earthjustice obtained a temporary restraining order prohibiting BLM from finalizing the Utah leases until after the change in administrations in Washington. Once Obama took office, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that BLM would not finalize the leases, but would conduct additional environmental analysis.
In October 2009, Salazar announced that eight of 77 oil and gas lease parcels sold during a December auction in the waning hours of the Bush administration will be off-limits to drilling. Earthjustice continues to challenge plans to open an additional 2 millions acres of Utah public lands to oil and gas development.
|TransAlta Coal Plant Permit||
In the fight against coal plants, most progress by the environmental community in recent years has been to stop new plants or large new expansions, in part because old plants often have the benefit of "grandfather" type provisions in the law. That has left many old, very dirty coal power plants chugging away, belching huge quantities of global warming pollutants and other air pollutants. Earthjustice and several client groups have decided to take a run at changing that.
A subsidiary of TransAlta Corporation, a Canadian company, owns an old, dirty coal power plant in Centralia, Washington. The plant has never had to control mercury (a potent neuro-toxin) or global warming pollutants. That makes it the largest source of these pollutants in the state -- 10% of Washington's total greenhouse gas emissions come from just this one coal plant. The TransAlta coal plant also emits huge quantities of nitrogen oxides (NOx) -- a pollutant that is causing haze pollution to dirty the air of what should be our most pristine areas: national parks and wilderness areas. The TransAlta plant degrades the air quality in Mt. Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades National Parks along with Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams wilderness areas, among others. The National Park Service estimates that the TransAlta plant cumulatively pollutes the air in more parks and wilderness areas than any other polluter in the entire United States. Yet, TransAlta continues to fight putting adequate controls on its NOx pollution saying it just doesn't want to spend the money.
We disagree with TransAlta's balance sheet mentality. We think clean air, public health, and doing something now about the dangers of global warming is priceless and necessary for our kids and grandkids. Therefore, Earthjustice, on behalf of the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, has filed suit challenging renewal of TransAlta's air permit for its complete failure to control mercury and global warming pollutants from the plant and for its failure to put the best controls available on NOx pollution that is harming parks and wilderness areas.
|Makua Environmental Impact Statement||In October 2001, Earthjustice reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Army that requires the Army to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for its proposed resumption of live-fire training at Makua Military Reservation (MMR) on Oahu, a culturally and ecologically important area, with scores of Hawaiian cultural sites and nearly fifty endangered plants and animals threatened by training.|
|Hawai'i Clean Energy Planning Framework||
Earthjustice is representing the Hawai'i Solar Energy Association, the statewide solar industry association, in proceedings before the Hawai'i Public Utilities Commission regarding the state electric utilities' proposed framework for energy planning, which will direct state energy development and use for decades to come. Earthjustice is seeking to ensure that the final approved framework best serves the public interest in maximum growth and distribution of clean energy.
|Canada Lynx Critical Habitat Intervention||The Canada lynx is a secretive forest cat that needs big, wild landscapes to survive. In February 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted to conserve this rare species by designating 39,000 square miles of forest land as critical habitat for the lynx pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. The critical habitat designation, which encompasses lands in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Maine, allows the Service to protect lynx from harmful activities within areas that are crucial for the species' survival and recovery.|
|Tar Sands and the "Alberta Clipper"||Tar sands development in Alberta Canada is creating an environmental catastrophe. Toxic tailings ponds can be seen from space and plans have been made to strip away forests and peat lands in an area the size of Florida. The process of extracting oil from tar sands is extremely resource-intensive; it requires large amounts of energy for heating, mining, and pumping and uses 2.5 to 4 times the amount of water required for conventional crude oil extraction. Greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are three times those of conventional crude oil. Tar-sand oil contains 11 times more sulfur and nickel, six times more nitrogen, and five times more lead than conventional oil. These toxins are released into US air and water when the crude oil is processed into fuels by refineries.|
|Horse Butte Bison Intervention||The Montana Stockgrowers Association and two other plaintiffs have filed a state court lawsuit seeking to order the capture, hazing, or slaughter of bison (also known as buffalo) by a Montana state agency in the Horse Butte area just outside the west boundary of Yellowstone National Park. Earthjustice has intervened in this case on behalf of conservation groups and local landowners to stop the stockgrowers from reinstating a bison slaughter.|
|Missouri Breaks National Monument||Instead of extending the National Monument the especially protective management to which it is legally entitled, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) adopted a resource management plan (RMP) that treats the Monument as if it is indistinguishable from general multiple-use BLM lands. This is perhaps most evident in BLM's designation of a spider web of thousands of miles of trails and routes for motorized vehicles that BLM admits will damage the objects whose protection motivated the Monument's creation. Earthjustice represents a coalition of four environmental groups challenging the Monument's RMP.|
|Defending America's First Carbon Cap-and-Trade Program||
The Northeastern states have succeeded in launching the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to reduce carbon emissions from regional power plants using a cap-and-trade system. However, an industry lawsuit in New York threatens the entire program. Representing Environmental Advocates of New York, the Environmetal Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Pace Climate and Energy Center, we have submitted amicus briefing to defend this program, and more fundamentally, the states' ability to take proactive measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions in advance of federal climate regulation.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first U.S. effort to reduce carbon emissions using a cap and trade system. RGGI has pioneered a model for cost-effective climate action at the state level. The model is particularly important because it incorporates the "polluter pays" principle, demanding that polluters buy the allowances that entitle them to emit carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at auction, rather than getting these valuable allowances for free. Each RGGI state has begun implementing the system, and the first allowance auctions have been held successfully.
The RGGI experiment is being closely watched and copied at every level of government. RGGI has inspired other states to step into the void left by the Bush administration and begin designing flexible regional systems that will limit greenhouse gas emissions. The Western Climate Initiative, the Southwest Climate Change Initiative, and other regional efforts have looked to the RGGI example for both inspiration and technical guidance on the design of an auction-based approach to allocating emissions allowances. Similarly, proposed federal cap-and-trade legislation draws on lessons learned from the RGGI process. We will fight to ensure that the New York legal challenge does not set back these important efforts to stop global warming.
|Hatfield's Ferry & Coal Combustion Waste||Hatfield's Ferry is located along the Monongahela River that flows north from West Virginia into southwestern Pennsylvania. The Monongahela is heavily used for recreation (boating and sportfishing) and is the main drinking water source for over 90,000 people in the region south of Pittsburgh. It is also the location of one of Pennsylvania's dirtiest coal-fired power plants.|
|West-wide Energy Corridors||
In January 2009, on its way out the door, the Bush administration finalized a vast network of energy corridors that promote coal-fired and other fossil-fuel power plants. The West-wide energy corridors are approximately 6000 miles long and cover 3.2 million acres of federal land in eleven Western states. By designating corridors that service old dirty sources of energy while neglecting areas with potential for clean, renewable energy sources, the Bush administration curtailed the ability of the federal government to shift the country away from our dependence on fossil fuels.
The federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 required federal agencies to designate corridors for oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines and electric transmission facilities on federal land. In designating these corridors, the Bush administration ignored input from states, local governments, and thousands of citizens that suggested alternative routes that would not only support renewable energy, but also avoid trampling through iconic western landscapes including Arches National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The federal agencies responsible for designating these corridors also refused to engage in consultation under the Endangered Species Act to determine how these corridors would impact threatened and endangered species throughout the West.
On behalf of a coalition of conservation organizations and a western Colorado county, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging these corridors. The lawsuit seeks to redirect new transmission lines so that they link clean energy areas to consumers, and revitalizing the West-wide energy corridors, which have the potential to be an essential component of the of the overall renewable energy plan for the West, integrating state and regional policies to tap into the West's vast potential for wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources while protecting the region's iconic wildlife and public lands.
|Stockwater Exemption||On June 30, 2009, Earthjustice's Seattle office filed suit in state court in Washington, on behalf of third and fourth generation farmers against a huge industrial cattle feedlot. The Five Corners Family Farmers are a group of dryland wheat farmers whose families have been living and farming in the area since the early 1900s. Franklin County, Washington is one of the driest counties in the state and the Family Farmers group uses conservative farming practices in order to produce wheat without irrigation. The new industrial feedlot, Easterday Ranches, Incorporated, will pump over a million gallons of groundwater total per day from an area otherwise closed to new groundwater withdrawals due to decreasing aquifer levels. The Family Farmers worry that their wells, the source of all their water for drinking and household uses, will be threatened by this huge new, unregulated, industrial use.|
|Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rulemaking||
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is promulgating regulations to implement statutory changes enacted from the 2007 legislative session. These new regulations are expected to substantially change the state permitting process for oil and gas development in Colorado. For the first time, the regulations will systemically address public health, environmental and wildlife concerns.
Earthjustice has been asked to represent the conservation community in these proceedings, to make the case for regulations that are open and transparent and protective of the environment, and to counter an intense campaign by the oil and gas industry to weaken the proposed rules.
|Gray Wolves in the Northern Rockies||
Gray wolves have come perilously close to extinction in the Rocky Mountains. Only in the past decade has the wolf population rebounded from a population of less than 50 to more than 1,500 wolves today. Visitors come to Yellowstone every year to get the chance to see and hear wolves in the wild.
In September, 2008, the Bush administration moved to reinstate federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves, by asking a federal court for permission to withdraw its March 2008 decision to drop protections for wolves in the northern Rockies. On March 6, 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar affirmed the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species in the western Great Lakes and the northern Rocky Mountain states of Idaho and Montana and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah.
Once again, Earthjustice has turned to the courts to protect the grey wolves of the northern Rockies from attempts to deprive wolves of necessary legal and habitat protections. On June 2, 2009, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of conservation groups challenging the decision to delist the wolves. In August 2009, Earthjustice sought an emergency injunction to halt wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.