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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:

The Public’s Right to Fish and Boat on Florida's Fisheating Creek

Earthjustice has represented conservationists in over two decades of legal disputes with agribusiness giant Lykes Brothers, Inc. over the public’s right to fish and boat on Fisheating Creek. The creek is a major tributary of Lake Okeechobee. It is a wild and scenic waterway which courses through prairie, cypress swamps, and marshes.

Suing City of Rochelle, GA, Over Decades of Sewage Dumping Earthjustice is representing a group of African-American citizens suing their city government for discharging the city’s raw sewage onto their properties, a clear and egregious violation of the Clean Water Act.
Gulf Deep Water Oil Drilling Challenge

Earthjustice is representing the Sierra Club, the Gulf Restoration Network and the Florida Wildlife Federation in challenging the federal government’s flawed environmental risk assessment of Shell Oil Company’s plan to drill for oil in deep Gulf of Mexico water near the site of BP’s catastrophic 2010 well blowout. The suit alleges that the government’s calculations grossly understate the blow-out risk and that Shell’s drilling plan places communities at risk of another major oil spill along the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida coasts.

BP Oil Spill Plan Challenge

Earthjustice is representing the Gulf Restoration Network and the Sierra Club in challenging the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) arbitrary approval of BP's oil spill clean-up plan. In its spill plan, BP claimed it could contain any possible spill by vacuuming up over 20 million gallons of oil per day. BP's actual recovery rate since the Deepwater Horizon explosion has turned out to be about two percent of that.

Offshore Oil Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico

Earthjustice is representing the Gulf Restoration Network and  the Sierra Club in challenging the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) for its policy put forth in a notice to the oil companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico; in its notice, MMS exempts those companies from being required to disclose in their exploratory plans a blow-out scenario, and a worst case scenario as required by law. The blow-out scenario and worst case scenario, if included, would disclose scenarios for a potential blow-out, including the maximum volume of oil that would be released, the maximum flow-rate of the oil, the maximum duration of the blow-out, and the estimated time it would take to contain such an oil spill. 

Seminole Power Plant

Earthjustice is opposed to the construction of new coal plants because of the growing crisis of global warming and because they are the dirtiest way of generating electricity.  Coal fired power plants are an extremely polluting antiquated technology and the Seminole Electric plant would pollute the air a lot more than older coal power plants of similar size. The permit didn't meet the Clean Air Act requirements.

TMDL Challenge: Lake Okeechobee Tributaries

Apart from its ecological significance as the second largest lake in the United States, Lake Okeechobee is also the largest surface water drinking source in Florida and the headwaters to the Everglades. Today, as a consequence of constantly accumulating phosphorus and nitrogen pollution, Lake Okeechobee periodically develops extensive toxic algae blooms. This case follows a successful Florida law challenge to a nutrient limit proposed for the nine northern tributaries to Lake Okeechobee. In that case, the state agency proposed a nutrient limit for the tributaries far too high to maintain the federal and state standards for water quality. The evidence in that case indicated a much lower limit would be appropriate. In response to this decision, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed such a limit. Major agricultural polluters then put pressure on EPA to sharply increase the phosphorus limit, and the state developed an elaborate formula which produced a nutrient limit for the tributaries at a level 70 percent higher than the level initially proposed by EPA. In mid-summer 2008, EPA finalized its rule and adopted the higher concentration limit for phosphorus. An unreasonably high phosphorus limit for the main tributaries to the lake will serve as a vehicle to legalize the pollution rather than bring it under control.

Earthjustice is suing on behalf of conservationists to compel the EPA to set more protective pollution limits.

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.
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.

Glades Power Plant

Florida Power & Light has proposed building a massive coal-fired power plant on the northwest shore of Lake Okeechobee, at the edge of the Florida Everglades. Coal-fired power plants are among the nation's largest sources of air pollution, and spew greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide which can accelerate global warming. As a result of these and other polluting emissions, including mercury, the proposed Glades plant would also further degrade the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, and local estuaries.

Earthjustice challenged the permits on behalf of several conservation groups. On June 5, 2007, the Florida Public Service Commission voted unanimously to reject the proposal.

Lake Okeechobee Pollution Limits

Lake Okeechobee in Florida is overloaded with fertilizer and animal waste from cattle and dairy farms as well as other sources. Existing restrictions are inadequate to the task of cleaning them up. Earthjustice successfully sued to make the authorities follow the law and clean up waterways tributary to the Lake.

Everglades: Agricultural Pollution The legal battle to stop agricultural pollution the Everglades of south Florida has raged for years. Earthjustice has been in it from the beginning seeking to enforce the law and protect the Everglades.
Lake Okeechobee Backpumping, Florida

Millions of gallons of polluted water coming off of half a million acres of sugar cane fields and cities are pumped into Lake Okeechobee by the South Florida Water Management District. The discharge contaminates drinking water supplies and fertilizes toxic blue-green algae blooms. Earthjustice filed suit demanding the district obtain Clean Water Act permits for its discharges and comply with water quality standards in the lake. 

On December 11, 2006, a federal district judge in Miami ruled that the district must comply with the Clean Water Act. And on Jun 15, 2007, a federal court issued an injunction requiring the South Florida Water Management District to apply for pollution permits to engage in pumping dirty water into the lake.

As a result of our victory in court, one of the larger landowners near Lake Okeechobee, U.S. Sugar -- which farming operations resulted in polluted water being pumped back into Lake Okeechobee -- negotiated with the state of Florida to sell its 185,000 acres of lands and shut down the sugar growing and processing operations. With large-scale sugar processing phased out, once again the natural flow of water will return and help to restore the Everglades. 

Florida Irrigation: Farming Practices Destroying Trees

Tomato growers in Florida use so much irrigation water that it floods downstream lands and has killed thousands of acres of bottomland hardwoods. Earthjustice sued on behalf of a downstream nature center to force the farmers to contain their irrigation water.

In October 2008, Earthjustice won an appeal of this case. The Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland decided that a trial court improperly dismissed the case on the theory that the water management district could not be required to stop the flooding.