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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:

Defending EPA Rule Reducing Large Ship Pollution

A coalition of environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice, has moved to intervene in a court case to support a low-sulfur fuel requirement for ships in most U.S. waters, including southern Alaska.

Challenging a Panamanian Dam Project for Violating Indigenous Rights

Civil society organizations are supporting a challenge by indigenous people to the environmental review of the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam in Panama.

Challenging Federal Financing of Coal Exports from East Coast Ports

Environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice, have filed the first-ever lawsuit challenging the federal government’s financing for the export of Appalachian coal from the United States. The U.S. government approved this financial support for coal exports without considering the increased toxic air and water pollution that could affect communities near the mines and ports, and along the railways that connect them.

Protecting Human Rights by Reducing Black Carbon Emissions to Slow Arctic Warming The Arctic Athabaskan Council has filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, asking the Commission to declare that Canada is undermining the human rights of Athabaskan peoples by poorly regulating emissions of black carbon, or soot, a short-lived climate pollutant which contributes significantly to Arctic warming and melting. Readily available emissions reduction measures could substantially slow Arctic warming and melting and protect Athabaskan rights.
Defending the Gulf of California from "Mega Resorts"

Earthjustice and the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), representing local and international environmental organizations, have filed a petition to the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, charging the Mexican government with failing to enforce its own environmental laws in authorizing the construction of four “mega resorts” in the Gulf of California.

State Department’s Refusal to Disclose Tar Sands Communications Challenge

Earthjustice is representing environmental and ethics groups in challenging the State Department’s refusal to disclose communication records with a lobbyist for TransCanada Pipelines, Paul Elliott, who was previously a presidential campaign manager for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Disclosure of these communications may reveal improprieties in the State Department’s decision-making with respect to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline that would transport tar sands crude oil to from Alberta, Canada to US refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Global Warming and Ships, Aircraft, and Non-Road Vehicles & Engines

Aircraft, ship and non-road vehicles and engines are major contributors to global warming pollution. Together they are responsible for 24 percent of U.S. mobile source greenhouse gas emissions, and emit approximately 290,000 tons of soot every year. Pollution from these sources is projected to grow rapidly over coming decades. Annual U.S. shipping emissions alone are equivalent to from 130 million to 195 million cars and are on track to triple over the next 20 years.

Tar Sands and the "Alberta Clipper" Tar sands development in Alberta Canada is creating an environmental catastrophe. Toxic tailings ponds can be seen from space and plans have been made to strip away forests and peat lands in an area the size of Florida. The process of extracting oil from tar sands is extremely resource-intensive; it requires large amounts of energy for heating, mining, and pumping and uses 2.5 to 4 times the amount of water required for conventional crude oil extraction. Greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are three times those of conventional crude oil. Tar-sand oil contains 11 times more sulfur and nickel, six times more nitrogen, and five times more lead than conventional oil. These toxins are released into US air and water when the crude oil is processed into fuels by refineries.
Marine Diesel Emissions The EPA has failed to produce meaningful standards for controlling emissions from Category 3 marine diesel engines -- engines that power the largest oceangoing vessels such as tankers, freighters and cruise ships -- as required by the Clean Air Act. These marine engines burn residual fuel oil which contains sulfur, nitrogen, ash, and other substances that turn into sulfur oxide, nitrous oxide, and other pollutants and greenhouse gases when burned. Typical of shipping practices across the country, the ships steam into ports -- sometimes for days awaiting their turn to dock -- all the while running their engines to generate electricity to operate various ship systems (a practice called "hotelling"). People who live near ports are exposed to higher levels of diesel particulate matter and other pollutants, and suffer higher rates of asthma and cardiovascular disease.
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.

 

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.

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.

Inuit Human Rights and Climate Change

Earthjustice is working with the Inuit Circumpolar Conference to protect the human rights of the Inuit people in their struggle against climate change.

Okinawa Dugong & Proposed Airbase The American military is trying to force the Japanese government to build a new airbase on a reef used by endangered dugong (cousin to the Florida manatee) for feeding and resting. In January 2008, a federal judge ruled against the Department of Defense, ordering the DoD to consider the impact of the base on the dugong's habitat.
International Right to a Healthy Environment Earthjustice is involved in an effort to persuade the United Nations that the right to a safe, healthy, and healthful environment is a basic human right and, as such, is protected by various existing human rights agreements and conventions. Considerable progress has been made.