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:
|Cleaning Up the Air in Fairbanks, AK||
The Fairbanks North Star Borough has some of the worst and most dangerous air quality in the nation. Alaska community groups have joined together to demand that responsible officials address the problems that Borough residents and their families face when simply breathing in Fairbanks.
|Protecting the Bristol Bay Watershed from Pebble Mine||
The Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska is an area rich with salmon, wildlife and salmon-based Alaska Native cultures and is home to the largest sockeye salmon run in the world. A large-scale gold and copper mine, called the Pebble Mine, has been proposed for the area. Between 24 and 94 miles of streams would be lost due to the mine footprint alone, spills into the remaining streams are likely, and the resulting toxic mine waste will pose a threat to the area in perpetuity.
|Protecting Canyon Creek Watershed from Coal Mining||
Climate disruption, public health, and Alaska’s clean water and air and abundant fish and wildlife are all at stake in the State of Alaska’s push to open its vast coal resources for development. Most recently, the state decided to open over 13,000 acres of roadless state lands to competitive coal leasing. Earthjustice is challenging the decision as unconstitutional and not in the best interests of the state.
|Shell’s Oil Spill Response Plans||Earthjustice is representing several clients to challenge the federal government’s approval of Shell Oil’s oil spill response plans for the Arctic Ocean. Earthjustice brought the challenge in the Alaska District Court in July 2012. The lawsuit focuses on two spill plans—the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas spill plans—but ultimately it addresses requirements that apply nationwide.|
|Alaska Roadless Intervention||Earthjustice, together with Natural Resources Defense Council, is representing several clients to defend the 2001 Roadless Areas Conservation Rule in court, once again. The latest challenge to the Roadless Rule was brought by the State of Alaska in the D.C. District Court in June 2011. It focuses on the two national forests in Alaska—the Tongass and the Chugach—but also seeks to strike down the rule nationwide.|
|Shell Oil's Arctic Drilling Clean Air Act Permits||
In March 2010, Environmental Protection Agency issued to Shell two multi-year major source air permits for its exploration drilling operations in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. Earthjustice, on behalf of several petitioners, filed a petition for review of the permits in front of the Environmental Appeals Board, an administrative court within EPA.
|Steller Sea Lion Consultation||
Earthjustice, on behalf of Oceana and Greenpeace, has moved to defend the federal government in lawsuits brought by the State of Alaska and the groundfish industry. The lawsuits challenge conservation measures put in place in January 2011 to protect the endangered western population of Steller sea lions in the North Pacific Ocean.
|Alaska Cruise Ship Wastewater Pollution Permit Challenge||Earthjustice is representing the Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters, a project of Earth Island Institute, and Friends of the Earth in challenging the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s decision to grant the permit that authorizes cruise ships to continue dumping pollutants without meeting the standards required by law.|
|Tongass Roadless Exemption||In 2009, a diverse coalition of Alaska Native, tourism industry, and environmental organizations challenged the Bush administration's 2003 rule "temporarily" exempting southeast Alaska's Tongass National Forest—the nation's largest and wildest—from the landmark 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule.|
|Western Arctic Oil & Gas Drilling||
Outside of the industrialized oil fields of Prudhoe Bay, vast areas of relatively untouched wildlife habitat remain in Alaska's Western Arctic. This region includes the 23-million acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, the largest unprotected block of land in the federal land system. The Reserve consists of varied ecosystems and habitats, from coastal lagoons to Arctic tundra and rugged mountains, supporting large populations of caribou, polar and grizzly bears, wolves, fish, and migratory birds. It is also home for Teshekpuk Lake, one of the most important and sensitive wetland complexes in the circumpolar Arctic.
|Fueling the Fire: Shell's Oil Drilling in the Arctic Ocean||Alaska's Arctic Ocean has been under constant pressure in recent years as a rapidly warming climate continues to melt the sea ice that for millennia has supported Arctic species—polar bear, Pacific walrus, seals and whales—and the associated Alaska native cultures in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.|
|Orion North Timber Sale||
The Orion North timber sale would have clearcut the heart of the last major roadless watershed in Thorne Arm, on Revillagigedo Island near Ketchikan in the Tongass National Forest. The watershed provides important old-growth habitat connecting Misty Fjords National Monument with the valuable coastal habitat along Thorne Arm.
|Oil and Gas Lease Sale in the Chukchi Sea||Alaska's Chukchi Sea, part of America's Arctic, provides vital habitat for polar bears, endangered bowhead whales, walrus, beluga whales, seals, fish and marine birds. In recent years, the wildlife and people of this poorly-understood but precious and vibrant region have experienced dramatic impacts from climate change, melting sea ice, declining wildlife populations and eroding shorelines.|
|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.|
|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.