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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:

Endosulfan: A Pesticide with Too Many Risks

Endosulfan is a dangerous organochlorine insecticide that poison children, farmworkers, bystanders, fish, birds, and wildlife. Many organochlorine pesticides, including DDT, were banned in the 1970s. Used in the United States on tomatoes, cotton, and other crops, endosulfan can cause reproductive and developmental damage in both humans and wildlife; recently, a study found that children exposed to endosulfan in the first trimester had a significantly greater risk for developing autism spectrum disorder. In addition, endosulfan is extremely persistent, mobile, bioaccumulative, and has been found in National Parks, the Arctic, and in marine mammals. Endosulfan is banned entirely in the European Union and many other countries, including Cambodia, Pakistan, and the Philippines.  Endosulfan has been proposed for a global ban under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.  In early 2008, more than 13,000 people signed a petition asking EPA to ban endosulfan in the United States. 

EPA approved continued use of endosulfan despite its horrific risks and minor benefits, in violation of federal pesticide law. EPA also failed to initiate or complete consultation on the impacts of endosulfan to threatened and endangered species. 

Earthjustice has filed suit to force EPA to consider the impacts this pesticide has on people and wildilfe, and to prevent its application around schools, homes, playgrounds, and other areas while EPA complies with the law.

Roadless Rule Defense: Affirmed At Court of Appeals, Enjoined in Another Circuit The Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects 58.5 million acres of national forest land, was repealed by the Bush adminstration and replaced by a state-by-state petition process. In September 2006, Judge Elizabeth Laporte in San Francisco declared the petitions rule illegal and reinstated the Roadless Rule nationwide, except for the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Two years later, Judge Brimmer reissued his moratorium declaring the Roadless Rule illegal throughout the country. But the following year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed protection for over 40 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands from new road building, logging, and development. On October 21, 2011, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Wyoming district court, upholding the Roadless Rule and vacating the prior injunction.
Diazinon: Threat to Public Health

Diazinon is a dangerous organophosphate pesticide that poisons farmworkers, children, bystanders, fish, birds, and wildlife. EPA found health risks for diazinon, yet approved its continued use without requiring mitigation to reduce those risks and without ensuring that there are no unreasonable adverse effects, as required by federal pesticide law. This is especially true for impacts to children and agricultural communities from drift and run-off. EPA also failed to initiate or complete consultation on the impacts of diazinon to threatened and endangered species. 

Earthjustice has filed suit to compel EPA to follow the law and reassess the threats this pesticide poses to the public and the environment.

Halting Phosphate Strip Mining in Pristine Wetlands of Central Florida Phosphate strip mining has devastated the Upper Peace River Valley in Central Florida. Over a hundred thousand acres of wetlands and hundreds of miles of streams have been destroyed by mining activities. Now, Mosaic Phosphate Company, which owns over 300,000 acres of land that it hopes to mine, is attempting to expand into previously unmined areas farther down the Peace River Valley.  One of these mines is the 2367-acre Altman Tract which is located in the headwaters of one of the major tributaries of the Peace River.
Setting Sewage, Fertilizer, and Animal Waste Limits The Clean Water Act puts pollution limits on lakes and streams to protect their uses for drinking water, recreation, and fish and wildlife habitat. Earthjustice has sought to force the Environmental Protection Agency to create effective water quality standards.
Roan Plateau: Challenge to Oil & Gas Leasing Plan

The Roan Plateau, just west of Rifle, Colorado, provides an island of near-unrivaled biodiversity in western Colorado. The Roan contains essential habitat for genetically pure populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout; supports Colorado's greatest herds of elk and mule deer; and hosts a number of rare and sensitive plants. BLM itself acknowledges that the Roan also contains at least 19,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands. The area is extremely popular with sportsmen for backcountry angling, hunting and other recreation.    

The BLM, however, plans to lease the Roan for oil and gas development, and to allow drilling more than 3,600 wells on the Upper Plateau. BLM admits that the backcountry and wilderness values for which the Roan is known would be seriously compromised by such intensive development. BLM's leasing plan also disregards widespread opposition from the towns and counties in the area, as well as from Colorado's governor and congressional delegation -- all of whom sought to additional protections for the Roan.  

Earthjustice represents a coalition of groups in challenging the BLM leasing plan.     

Brookfield Landfill: Cleaning Up a Toxic Dump

Between 1974 and 1980, tens of thousands of gallons of toxic industrial waste were dumped illegally at the Brookfield landfill in Staten Island. It was one of five New York City landfills involved in a 1982 federal investigation into illegal dumping which sent a city Department of Sanitation official and a hauling operator to prison. While cleanup has concluded at the four other landfills involved in the 1982 investigation, work still has yet to begin on the Brookfield site in Staten Island.

Earthjustice is representing Staten Island residents in a lawsuit against the city of New York to force the cleanup of this abandoned toxic waste dump.

Highwood Power Plant Challenge

Earthjustice, on behalf of local conservation groups, challenged state and federal authorizations for the Highwood Generating Station, a 250-MW coal-fired power plant proposed by a small group of eastern Montana electricity cooperatives known as the Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative. Earthjustice also challenged a $600 million federal subsidy of this power plant -- a power plant that would produce pollutants and greenhouse gases for decades to come.

This proposed plant would have been built on top of one of the last preserved campsites of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the National Park Service has reported that its destruction would represent "an irreparable loss to the national heritage of our country."

In February, 2009, the backers of the plant announced that they are reversing course and will instead build natural gas and wind energy facilities, and in August, 2009, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality revoked the air quality permit for the plant.

Coalbed Methane Gas & Coal Mining Development in Flathead River Basin

The Flathead River flows from British Columbia south into Montana and forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park. Coalbed methane gas extraction and open-pit coal mining in the Canadian headwaters of the Flathead River threaten to fragment the Flathead's abundant habitat for grizzly bears, wolves, and wolverines, and to pollute the river's pristine waters.

Earthjustice submitted petitions to the appropriate international agencies to seek to protect this special river and its surrounding habitat, and in 2010, British Columbia, in partnership with the state of Montana, has agreed to ban mining, oil and gas development, and coalbed gas extraction in the valley.

 

Protecting Healthy Elk & Bison in Wyoming

Each winter, the federal government feeds approximately 8,000 elk and 900 bison, or buffalo, on the 24,700-acre Jackson Hole National Elk Refuge in northwest Wyoming. This winter feeding program began in 1910 after growing human development in the Jackson Hole region intruded on winter ranges for native wildlife, and has continued ever since. Now, however, it has become apparent that crowding of elk and bison on winter feed lines -- like crowding of children in a kindergarten class room -- exposes the animals to a high danger of disease transmission. Already the fed elk and bison are widely afflicted with brucellosis, a disease that causes female animals to abort their calves. Even worse, crowding on the refuge feed lines exposes the elk to a high risk of contracting chronic wasting disease, the elk equivalent of "mad cow" disease, which is always fatal and which has steadily been moving northwest in Wyoming toward the Jackson Hole area over the past several years.

Despite these wildlife disease threats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided in 2007 to continue winter feeding of elk and bison for the foreseeable future, rather than to embark on a new plan that would seek to return these animals to their native winter range. In making this decision, the agency deferred to the wishes of local hunting outfitters, who want high elk numbers for their clients, and local ranchers, who wish to keep the elk away from forage that is now used to graze cattle. But the law governing the National Wildlife Refuge System requires the Service to maintain "healthy populations" of wildlife for the benefit of present and future generations of all Americans, not to maintain feedgrounds that perpetuate wildlife disease for the benefit of a few local interests.  Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in June 2008 to enforce this law. 

EPA Water Transfer Rule

In our Lake Okeechobee backpumping case, a federal district judge ruled in December 2006 that the South Florida Water Management District must comply with the Clean Water Act by obtaining permits for its discharges of polluted water into the lake.

In response to our court win, the EPA has issued an administrative rule that would grant an exception to the requirement for permits which would allow water transfers between heavily polluted waterways into pristine bodies of water, including drinking water supplies. This rule would not only effect Florida and Lake Okeechobee, but all waters nationwide. Water management districts throughout the nation could spread toxic algae blooms, introduce invasive species, chemicals, and other pollutants by these unregulated water transfers.

Earthjustice is challenging this rule.

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.