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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:

Pesticide Testing on Humans

The EPA issued a rule on pesticide testing on humans that favors the chemical industry and does not meet the scientific and ethical standards recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and outlined by the Nuremberg Code after World War II.

In June 2010, the EPA settled this lawsuit and agreed to propose a new rule that would significantly strengthen scientific and ethical protections for tests of pesticides on humans. Under this agreement, a proposed rule must be issued for public comment by January 2011. The settlement still requires court action to become effective.

PM-10 Contingency Measures This deadline suit seeks to compel EPA to act on the contingency measures in the San Joaquin Valley Air District's PM-10 plan. Contingency measures are required under the federal Clean Air Act as a backstop to protect public health should the Valley fail to meet major milestones in cleaning up particulate matter pollution. The EPA has yet to approve a set of contingency measures for the Valley and the plan is long overdue.
New Source Review Equipment Replacement Loophole When power plants and other major facilities make emissions-increasing changes, the Clean Air Act requires them to protect air quality and apply up-to-date pollution controls. Earthjustice went to court to challenge an EPA rule that carves out a major loophole in this requirement. On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act does require older power plants to have current air pollution controls when they are upgraded.
ORV Use in National Park Creek Bed Salt Creek, one of the most important streams in Canyonlands National Park, is threatened by San Juan County's R.S. 2477 claim.
Colorado River Cutthroat Trout The Colorado River cutthroat trout, once abundant throughout its range, has been nearly wiped out by dams, diversions, and other human-caused impacts. Earthjustice has filed suit to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to grant Endangered Species Act to the species. In September 2006, a federal judge ruled that the FWS must give the species a thorough evaluation.
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.
Stream and Wetland Protection Rule Industry groups challenged a rule issued by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, designed to protect rivers, streams, wetlands and other waters from destructive discharges of dredged material. Earthjustice intervened to oppose the industry challenge. In February 2008, the dismissed the appeal by the industry groups.
Streams & Wetlands Threatened by Industry Suit Oil industry groups have sued the Environmental Protection Agency in an attempt to greatly weaken regulations designed to prevent oil spills into United States waters. Earthjustice has intervened to oppose the industry challenge.
Streams and Wetlands: Nationwide Permits Industry groups have sued to further weaken nationwide permits that already allow excessive dredging and filling wetlands throughout the country. Earthjustice intervened to oppose the industry challenge. On September 29, 2006, a federal court dismissed the case.
Mountaintop Removal in West Virginia

Mountaintop removal is one of the most environmentally destructive activities in the country. The Army Corps of Engineers has issued permits for four mines that will dump millions of tons of rock and debris into nearby streams and valleys, burying them forever. The permits were issued without the required environmental studies and impact statements. On March 23, 2007, a federal judge agreed and rescinded the permits.

In February 2008, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling by the judge. Earthjustice requested a rehearing by the full court, which denied the petition. Earthjustice has asked the Supreme Court to review the case.

Mexican Border Power Plants

Suit to force the US Department of Energy to conduct a thorough environmental assessment before authorizing operation of power plants owned by US corporations and constructed in Mexico to supply power to the US energy market.

As a result of this suit, the court ordered that the DOE conduct an environmental assessment before authorizing electricity transmission.

Kensington Mine Project

In issuing a permit for a gold mine, the Army Corps of Engineers considered the mine’s chemically processed, toxic mine waste to be “fill material” under the Clean Water Act, bypassing strict EPA limits for this type of pollution. As a result, millions of tons of mine waste will be dumped into a pristine sub-alpine lake in Southeast Alaska, killing all fish and aquatic life in the lake.

In March 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal announced that the permit to allow the mine waste to be dumped in the lake was illegal and would be struck down. On October 29, 2007, the same court—in this case, all 27 active judges—refused to reconsider the decision made in March.

In a 6–3 decision on June 22, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. The mine is now operating and dumping its waste in the lake, but Earthjustice and others are working to change agency rules to avoid this result in the future.

Kane County Signage & RS 2477

Kane County, Utah, is home to some of our nation's most treasured public lands and wilderness. Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area lie within its boundaries. But county executives assert that scores of river corridors, cow paths, hiking trails and streambeds in Kane County are county "highways" under an 1866 federal statute known as R.S. 2477 -- a statute repealed by Congress in 1976.

In 2003, the county removed numerous signs that the Bureau of Land Management installed to identify routes and limit certain types of ORV use that had damaged the land. In 2005 county officials posted their own signs which indicated that other routes the BLM had closed to off-road vehicles were actually open. In August 2005, the county adopted an ordinance that would open to off-road vehicle use scores of trails to off-road vehicle use on lands where such use is prohibited under federal rules, including hiking trails and stream beds inside Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, routes within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and trails and stream beds closed to off-road vehicle use in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

This action allows destructive off-road vehicles (ORV) to use many of these trails and streambeds, endangering the environment and exposing cultural artifacts to damage and theft. Many of these trails are remote and unmaintained, which will put ORV riders at risk.

In October 2005, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society to protect these important public lands for all Americans. In September 2009, the Tenth Court of Appeal rejected the county's attempt to take the law into its own hands, reasoning that the county's actions violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Bush Roadless Repeal In July 2005, the Bush adminstration repealed the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a Forest Service regulation which generally prohibited logging, road construction, and other development on over 58 million acres of roadless land in national forests. Earthjustice challenged the repeal, and on September 20, 2006, a federal district court ordered reinstatement of the rule. Furthermore, on November 29, 2006, the court ordered the Forest Service to stop work on 84 oil and gas projects and an Idaho road project that had been approved during the five years that the roadless rule was illegally repealed.