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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:

Stockwater Exemption On June 30, 2009, Earthjustice's Seattle office filed suit in state court in Washington, on behalf of third and fourth generation farmers against a huge industrial cattle feedlot.  The Five Corners Family Farmers are a group of dryland wheat farmers whose families have been living and farming in the area since the early 1900s. Franklin County, Washington is one of the driest counties in the state and the Family Farmers group uses conservative farming practices in order to produce wheat without irrigation. The new industrial feedlot, Easterday Ranches, Incorporated, will pump over a million gallons of groundwater total per day from an area otherwise closed to new groundwater withdrawals due to decreasing aquifer levels.  The Family Farmers worry that their wells, the source of all their water for drinking and household uses, will be threatened by this huge new, unregulated, industrial use.
Western Oregon Plan Revision Precipitated by litigation in the 1980s-1990s, the Northwest Forest Plan has governed federal public forests in Washington, Oregon, and northern California since its adoption in 1994, but its protections were under attack throughout the Bush administration. The last shoe to drop in the attempt to dismantle the Northwest Forest Plan was its wholesale revision with respect to 2.6 million acres of Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") lands in Oregon. The Western Oregon Plan Revisions, known by the acronym WOPR, will quadruple old-growth forest logging and eliminate or substantially shrink all wildlife reserves, including the streamside buffers and key watersheds that are integral parts of the Northwest Forest Plan's salmon and clean water protections. While WOPR covers Oregon, its impact is region-wide, as it marks the end of the ecosystem-wide strategy that has protected northwest rivers, salmon and steelhead, northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets, and other old-growth dependent species.
Protecting the Endangered Species Act from Last-Minute Rule Changes

In a last-ditch attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service have enacted a rule that drastically reduces one of the core protections of the Act.

The Endangered Species Act requires all federal agencies to consult with expert federal wildlife agencies to ensure that their actions will not harm endangered species and, when necessary, to develop project alternatives that will mitigate any possible harm to endangered species. Consultation has been the Act's most effective and successful safeguard by, for example, keeping factory trawlers out of Steller sea lion rookeries, establishing minimum flows for salmon in the Klamath River, and reforming management of the Northwest forests to protect the northern spotted owl and other old-growth dependent species.

The new rule eliminates the consultation requirement in a wide range of circumstances and will reduce protections for imperiled species. The new rule was enacted on December 16, 2008, and is scheduled to take effect on January 15, 2009, in the final days of the Bush administration's term in office. Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit challenging the new rule in a federal district court in California. Earthjustice is asking the court to find the rule unlawful and set it aside to restore the critical protections endangered species need to survive.

Endosulfan: A Pesticide with Too Many Risks

Endosulfan is a dangerous organochlorine insecticide that poison children, farmworkers, bystanders, fish, birds, and wildlife. Many organochlorine pesticides, including DDT, were banned in the 1970s. Used in the United States on tomatoes, cotton, and other crops, endosulfan can cause reproductive and developmental damage in both humans and wildlife; recently, a study found that children exposed to endosulfan in the first trimester had a significantly greater risk for developing autism spectrum disorder. In addition, endosulfan is extremely persistent, mobile, bioaccumulative, and has been found in National Parks, the Arctic, and in marine mammals. Endosulfan is banned entirely in the European Union and many other countries, including Cambodia, Pakistan, and the Philippines.  Endosulfan has been proposed for a global ban under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.  In early 2008, more than 13,000 people signed a petition asking EPA to ban endosulfan in the United States. 

EPA approved continued use of endosulfan despite its horrific risks and minor benefits, in violation of federal pesticide law. EPA also failed to initiate or complete consultation on the impacts of endosulfan to threatened and endangered species. 

Earthjustice has filed suit to force EPA to consider the impacts this pesticide has on people and wildilfe, and to prevent its application around schools, homes, playgrounds, and other areas while EPA complies with the law.

Roadless Rule Defense: Affirmed At Court of Appeals, Enjoined in Another Circuit The Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects 58.5 million acres of national forest land, was repealed by the Bush adminstration and replaced by a state-by-state petition process. In September 2006, Judge Elizabeth Laporte in San Francisco declared the petitions rule illegal and reinstated the Roadless Rule nationwide, except for the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Two years later, Judge Brimmer reissued his moratorium declaring the Roadless Rule illegal throughout the country. But the following year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed protection for over 40 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands from new road building, logging, and development. On October 21, 2011, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Wyoming district court, upholding the Roadless Rule and vacating the prior injunction.
Diazinon: Threat to Public Health

Diazinon is a dangerous organophosphate pesticide that poisons farmworkers, children, bystanders, fish, birds, and wildlife. EPA found health risks for diazinon, yet approved its continued use without requiring mitigation to reduce those risks and without ensuring that there are no unreasonable adverse effects, as required by federal pesticide law. This is especially true for impacts to children and agricultural communities from drift and run-off. EPA also failed to initiate or complete consultation on the impacts of diazinon to threatened and endangered species. 

Earthjustice has filed suit to compel EPA to follow the law and reassess the threats this pesticide poses to the public and the environment.

Hatchery Listing Policy

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) adopted a policy that would require fisheries scientists to count hatchery-bred salmon along with the population of wild salmon when making endangered species assessments.

Earthjustice sued on behalf of several conservation groups and groups of fishing enthusiasts, and on June 13, 2007, a federal court agreed that the policy was scientifically flawed and inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act.

Marbled Murrelet Delisting Intervention

Timber industry attorneys tried to force the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to remove the threatened marbeled murrelet from the Endangered Species Act. Earthjustice represented several conservation groups requesting "intevenor" status in the lawsuit.

On February 2008, a federal district court rejected the timber industry's suit. In a related matter a few weeks later, the FWS announced that it would not finalize a proposal that would have slashed murrelet habitat by almost 95 percent.

In July 2008, a federal judge in Washington, DC, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals both ruled in favor of retaining federal Endangered Species Act protections for the marbled murrelet.

Sunflower Coal Plant Permit

A permit for the construction of a massive, coal-fired power plant in western Kansas was issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. This proposed plant will emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, including mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. The plant will burn coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, and use water from the declining Ogallala Aquifer (also known as the High Plains Aquifer). Earthjustice is contesting the permit.

Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat

The Fish and Wildlife Service approved several timber sales in areas nominally protected as critical habitat for the northern spotted owl. Earthjustice sued to stop the sales. In February 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals ruled that the FWS violated the Endangered Species Act when it approved the sales.

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."

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.

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. 
Pesticide Impacts on Salmon & Steelhead Back to court to force EPA to abide by court order.
Coastal Cutthroat Listing Cutthroat trout that live in coastal rivers in the Pacific Northwest and California have declined sharply owing primarily to habitat destruction, but the Fish and Wildlife Service refuses to protect them. A lawsuit aims to rectify that dire situation.