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:
|Challenge to National Clean Air Standards for Airborne Particulates||
On October 17, 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency refused to strengthen the annual primary particulate matter standard, despite the nearly unanimous recommendation from its own Clean Air Science Advisory Committee that the standard be strengthened. In addition, EPA refused to adopt a more protective secondary standard to protect visibility, and revoked another annual standard for clean air. Earthjustice challenged this action, and in February 2009, a federal court ruled that these Bush-era clean air standards were deficient, and sent them back to EPA for corrective action.
|Bluefin Tuna Bycatch in the Gulf of Mexico||The population of the western Atlantic bluefin tuna has been steadily declining in the past 20 years. In fact, the most recent assessment published by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna shows both that the population is at its lowest level ever, and that fishing pressure is at its highest point ever. A recent scientific study showed that bluefin tuna spawn in the Gulf of Mexico during the months of January through June, and that they were being killed as bycatch by the longliners targeting yellowfin tuna. Several conservation groups filed a petition in June of 2005 asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to close the bluefin spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico to all longline boats during spawning season. The agency refused to close the spawning grounds. Earthjustice is challenging the decision, since the agency ignored important scientific data when formulating its rule.|
|Boilers: New Source Performance Standards||
Earthjustice is challenging the EPA's new source performance standards (NSPS) for steam generating units at coal-fired power plants and other industrial, commercial, and institutional facilities.
|San Diego Vernal Pools||The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a permit to the city of San Diego that would allow the destruction of seven species dependent on vernal pools. On October 13, 2006, a federal district court invalidated the permit.|
|Washington State Municipal Water Law||
In 2003, the Washington State legislature passed the Municipal Water Law, which promotes irresponsible development at the expense of junior water rights holders and stream flows for fish. The law redefined "municipal water supplier" to include any private developer with connections for 15 or more homes and allows these developers to benefit from expanded rights granted retroactively to municipalities. It carried out these changes without the state Department of Ecology's usual review of the impacts of the expansion of a water right. The law therefore violated the due process rights of water-rights holders. It also violated the separation of powers by retroactively overruling a decision of the Washington Supreme Court.
In June 2008, a judge ruled that the state legislature overreached by redefining developers as "municipal water suppliers."
|Juneau Access||This suit challenged the approval of a highway project that would have extended the road north of Juneau, Alaska, through an inventoried roadless area in the Tongass National Forest to a new ferry terminal. The road threatened key wildlife areas, including bald eagle and Steller sea lion habitat, as well as important recreation, subsistence, and cultural resources.|
|County Line Timber Sale||
Forest Guardians and several nearby landowners are challenging a back-country timber sale adjacent to a wilderness area in southwestern Colorado that would ruin an area prized by hunters, fishermen, hikers, and mountain bikers.
|Startup, Shutdown, and Malfunction (SSM) Reconsideration||
Toxic air pollution from refineries, chemical plants, incinerators and other large industrial plants can increase to as much as ten times allowable levels during startup, shutdown, and malfunction events. Nonetheless, EPA's regulations exempted plants from toxic emission limits during these periods. Moreover, though EPA requires plant operators to prepare a plan for minimizing emissions during these highly polluting periods, EPA did not require plants to comply with their plan and allowed the plan to be kept secret from the public.
In December of 2008, as a result of this lawsuit, this loophole was closed by a federal court. Industry groups appealed the decision, and in March 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the case, effectively ending litigation.
|Teck Cominco/Lake Roosevelt||
Teck Cominco Metals operates a smelter ten miles north of the US-Canada border. This smelter has contaminated Lake Roosevelt, in Washington State, and parts of the Upper Columbia River with toxic heavy metals. Earthjustice filed a "friend of the Court" brief in support of the Colville Tribe to enforce an order issued to Teck Cominco to study and assess the pollution.
|Wyoming Elk Feedgrounds||
The state of Wyoming operates 23 winter feedgrounds for elk, many of them on federal lands. These feedgrounds artificially concentrate elk populations, which fuels the spread of diseases such as brucellosis and creates the prospect of a major chronic wasting disease epidemic. Conservationists sued to compel long overdue environmental analysis of alternatives to elk-feeding in Wyoming.
In July 2009 the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the four elk feed grounds on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management are exempt from a new environmental impacts analysis, due to an old memorandum of understanding agreed to by the BLM and the state of Wyoming. However, as a result of this lawsuit, the U.S. Forest Service prepared an environmental impact statement examining the impacts of feed grounds within the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
|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.|