|National Smog Standards||
Earthjustice is fighting for stronger limits on ozone or smog -- pollution linked to premature deaths, thousands of emergency room visits, and tens of thousands of asthma attacks each year. Ozone is especialy dangerous to small children and senior citizens, who are often warned to stay indoors on polluted days. Smog pollution can also severely damage forests and plants, stunting their growth and increasing the risk of die-off from disease. Unfortunately, smog standards recently adopted by the U.S. EPA are far weaker than recommended unanimously by the agency's own science advisors, leaving public health and the environment at great risk. Earthjustice is challenging these standards on behalf of public health and conservation groups.
|Oil Refineries and Hazardous Waste||
As a favor to U.S. oil refineries, EPA has exempted hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous wastes produced at refineries (over 300,000 tons annually) from stringent federal regulation. With a sweep of the pen, these wastes are no longer considered "hazardous" if converted into gas and burned at the refineries. The waste, however, is known to be toxic, carcinogenic and prone to combust spontaneously and thus poses grave hazards to our air, water, and the communities in which it is stored, transported and burned.
Earthjustice has filed suit to strike down this exemption.
|Public Liability for Mining Waste Clean-Up||
According to Superfund legislation passed in 1980, the EPA should have developed regulations that required mining companies and other high-risk polluting industires to provide financial proof that in case of toxic spills and other environmental contamination, these companies would be able to clean up the resultant contamination. The EPA has yet to issue these regulations, and some mining companies have declared bankruptcy instead of paying to clean up their sites, leaving the taxpayers with the bill. Without the financial incentive to prevent pollution, these companies have little incentive to improve their waste management.
In February 2009, a United States District Court ruled that the EPA must produce these long overdue regulations for mining companies by May 4, 2009, therefore limiting the public's liability for the damage caused to the environment by poor practices by these companies.
|Herring Trawlers: Threat to New England Fisheries||
The population of groundfish off the coast of New England has been depleted for years. In 1994 nearly all fishing was banned from waters identified as spawning grounds and sanctuaries for cod, haddock, and other groundfish in order to give groundfish a chance to rebound from overfishing.
Herring mid-water trawlers were initially banned from the groundfish-closed areas in 1994. But in 1998 federal regulators decided to re-open these areas to trawlers, based on an assumption that the herring ships would catch little or no groundfish in their nets. As a result of this loophole in the regulations, it's estimated that these vessels have caught hundreds of thousands of pounds of mature and juvenile groundfish as bycatch.
Earthjustice has filed suit on behalf of local fishing groups to force federal regulators to close this loophole.
|Smog & Soot: National Standards Review & Revision||This 2003 lawsuit set the stage for limits on smog pollution from power plants and other sources. We negotiated deadlines with the Environmental Protection Agency to propose standards for ozone, a precursor to smog, by June 20, 2007. The EPA's weak protections mean more pollution for our cities and neighborhoods.|
|Cement Kiln Emissions Challenge||This lawsuit challenges the EPA's continued refusal to set mercury emissions standards for cement kilns, in violation of the Clean Air Act. The EPA estimates that more than 100 cement kilns emit over 23,000 pounds of mercury each year.|
|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.
|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.
|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.|
|Stream and Wetland Protection Rule||Industry groups challenged a rule issued by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, designed to protect rivers, streams, wetlands and other waters from destructive discharges of dredged material. Earthjustice intervened to oppose the industry challenge. In February 2008, the dismissed the appeal by the industry groups.|
|Streams and Wetlands: Nationwide Permits||Industry groups have sued to further weaken nationwide permits that already allow excessive dredging and filling wetlands throughout the country. Earthjustice intervened to oppose the industry challenge. On September 29, 2006, a federal court dismissed the case.|
|Streams & Wetlands Threatened by Industry Suit||Oil industry groups have sued the Environmental Protection Agency in an attempt to greatly weaken regulations designed to prevent oil spills into United States waters. Earthjustice has intervened to oppose the industry challenge.|
|Mountaintop Removal in West Virginia||
Mountaintop removal is one of the most environmentally destructive activities in the country. The Army Corps of Engineers has issued permits for four mines that will dump millions of tons of rock and debris into nearby streams and valleys, burying them forever. The permits were issued without the required environmental studies and impact statements. On March 23, 2007, a federal judge agreed and rescinded the permits.
In February 2008, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling by the judge. Earthjustice requested a rehearing by the full court, which denied the petition. Earthjustice has asked the Supreme Court to review the case.