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 Four Corners Coal-Fired Power Plant||Built before the Clean Air Act was enacted, the Four Corners Power Plant has been operating without modern pollution controls for fifty years. Uncontrolled pollution from this plant threatens the health of its Navajo neighbors and mars visibility in surrounding national parks, including the iconic Grand Canyon.|
|Stanislaus National Forest Travel Management Plan Challenged||
Earthjustice is representing conservation groups in challenging the Forest Service's adoption of a motorized travel management plan that failed to minimize damage from off-road vehicles (ORV) in the Stanislaus National Forest, a popular recreational destination in California that encompasses approximately 900,000 acres on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California.
|Damaging Russian River Gravel Mining Plan Challenged||
Earthjustice is representing Russian Riverkeeper and the Redwood Empire Chapter of Trout Unlimited in challenging the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors’ December 7, 2010 approval of a massive gravel mining operation called the Syar Alexander Valley Instream Mining Project. The mining will take place on a 6.5-mile stretch of river located in the lower Alexander Valley near the town of Geyserville and is the first mining project of significance in the lower Alexander Valley in more than 10 years.
|California's Approval of Methyl Iodide Challenged||
Earthjustice is representing a coalition of groups and farm workers in challenging the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's approval of the cancer-causing strawberry pesticide methyl iodide. Wrongly touted by the manufacturer as environmentally superior to fumigants that contain methyl bromide, methyl iodide is in fact an extremely poisonous and dangerous pesticide that causes cancer and pollutes groundwater.
|Texas Coal Plant Sued Over Air Pollution Violations||Earthjustice is representing the Sierra Club in its lawsuit against Texas coal plant owner, Luminant Generation Company, for repeatedly violating federal air pollution regulations. The company’s Martin Lake plant, one of the dirtiest coal plants in the nation, has accumulated more than 50,000 air pollution violations in the last five years.|
|Air Quality in the San Joaquin Valley||
Air quality planning in the San Joaquin Valley is broken. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA sets national standards and the state and local air districts are responsible for developing the plans for how areas that fail to meet those national standards will control pollution sources in order to come into compliance. For the last 10 years Earthjustice has been putting the pressure on EPA and the local air district to adopt meaningful plans and enforce the deadlines for agency action under the Clean Air Act.
|Pacific Fisher: Warranted, But Precluded||
A close relative of the mink, otter, and wolverine, the Pacific fisher (Martes pennanti) once roamed the old-growth forests of the West Coast from Washington state to the Sierra Nevada. As with many other predatory species, however, fisher populations have declined dramatically in recent decades due to trapping, logging, farming, and fire. Survey information indicates that the fisher is likely extirpated from all of Washington, most of Oregon, and at least half of its range in the Sierra Nevada. The California population has been divided into two remnant populations, one in the northwestern part of the state and another small group in the southern Sierra Nevada believed to contain fewer than 500 individuals.
|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.|
|Keeping Lake Tahoe Blue||
Situated between Nevada and California, near the crest of the Sierra Mountains, Lake Tahoe is one of the deepest and clearest lakes in the world, and only one of two EPA-designated "Outstanding National Resources Waters" in the western United States. Due to increasing human activities and urban development around the lake, however, its famed clarity, which once measured 100 feet deep, has declined 30% since 1968. Further, 75% of the region's environmental standards, including water quality and air quality standards, have not been achieved. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's new plan to allow the construction of 138 piers and the placement of several thousand buoys in Lake Tahoe's shorezone would only cause more harm to the Lake's fragile environment. These additional shorezone structures would impede the public's recreational access to the shorezone, degrade the lake's natural scenic beauty, and result in over 62,000 additional motorized boat trips on the lake per year, leading to more pollution of the lake's waters and further declines in lake clarity.
This lawsuit challenges TRPA's plan to dramatically increase shorezone development, in violation of the agency's mandate to protect and restore Lake Tahoe's natural beauty and health.
The agency also failed to perform adequate environmental studies of the new development, and relied on an unformulated and undefined "Blue Boating Program" to offset the increased pollution. Without further specifics, however, the Blue Boating Program cannot assure that the lake's clarity will not suffer further damage and that environmental standards will be met. This lawsuit seeks to stop additional shorezone development until TRPA can show that its plan will achieve the region's standards.
In September of 2009, a federal dirstic court judge issued an injunction halting construction of new piers, boat ramps and other boat facilities, and placement of new buoys along the Lake Tahoe shoreline, pending resolution of the lawsuit.
Earthjustice is suing on behalf of conservationists.
|Monitoring the Health of the Sierra Nevada||
The 1982 National Forest Management Act regulations require the Forest Service to identify and monitor the populations of various management indicator species (â€œMISâ€) in the national forests. These particular species serve as a bellwether for other species with the same special habitat needs or population characteristics, so monitoring MIS is a way of monitoring the health of forest wildlife and habitat more generally.
On December 14, 2007, the Forest Service amended the forest plans for all ten national forests in the Sierra Nevada. The amendment reduces significantly the number of MIS that will be monitored, increasing the risk that logging and other destructive activities will be carried out that will harm wildlife and habitat in the Sierra.
This suit challenges this amendment to the Sierra Nevada forest plans.
|Protecting Global Climate and Community Health from Oil Refinery Impacts||
This case challenges the City of Richmond's approval of a major project at the Chevron oil refinery. The project could allow the refinery to use dirtier forms of oil which could increase the release of highly-polluting mercury, selenium and sulfur flare gas. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions from the refinery could increase by nearly 900,000 tons per year. The project could also increase the risk of accidents at the refinery, which in the past have led to considerable acute health problems in the surrounding community. The city is responsible for making sure that the Environmental Impact Report for the project analyzes and mitigates all of its significant environmental impacts, and violated the California Environmental Quality Act by approving a flawed report.
On July 2, 2009, a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge issued an injunction to stop work on the expansion until a new, legal Environmental Impact Report can be issued.
Earthjustice is suing on behalf of environmental justice and community groups.
|Protecting Southern California's National Forests||
This case challenged the Forest Service's legally flawed process for approving revisions to forest plans for four southern California national forests (Cleveland, Angeles, San Bernardino, and Los Padres) as violating the National Environmental Policy Act. Totaling approximately 3.5 million acres, the southern California forests extend from Big Sur in the north to the Mexican border, are an internationally recognized important region for biodiversity, and serve as immensely popular recreational destinations for millions of Californians. The revised plans were sharply skewed towards allowing more environmentally damaging activities on the forests, in particular recreation such as off-road vehicle use, while at the same time the plans failed to set aside and protect sensitive areas and species' habitat. The plans also opened up vast roadless areas to future development and activities that would prevent the areas from being designated wilderness in the future.
In September 2009, a federal district judge ruled that the plan did not adequately protect those forests' wildest landscapes.
Earthjustice represented conservationists.
|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.|
|Strengthening Protections for Our Nation's Forests||
In 2007, Earthjustice won its challenge to the Bush administration's 2005 revision of the National Forest Management Act planning regulations, which govern management of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. In response to our win, the Forest Service issued revised regulations. Unfortunately, the revised regulations are virtually the same as the regulations that the court invalidated, and the process by which they were adopted suffers from the same legal infirmities as the 2005 revision. Once again the regulations run counter to the National Forest Management Act, which was passed in 1976 in reaction to rampant overharvesting of commercial timber from the national forests, especially through clearcutting. The Act was expressly intended to reduce the Forest Service's discretion in managing the national forests, placing limits on timber harvesting and promoting the protection of other resources, including wildlife and native plants, watersheds, and recreation, while the revised regulations eliminate precisely those limits and protections.
This suit will challenge the revised regulations.
|Protecting California's Air: Removing Agricultural Exemptions||
California state law used to exempt farms, dairies, and other agricultural operations from getting air permits for pollution from sources such as agricultural dust, diesel irrigation pumps, and livestock waste. This exemption made compliance with the federal Clean Air Act impossible. Earthjustice sued the EPA for allowing California permitting programs to include the exemption, and Earthjustice's victory led California legislators to strip the exemption from the law.
However, EPA staff recently discovered that it unwittingly approved a provision with the older exemption for agricultural sources back in 1972 as part of a larger state implementation law, and could not find any subsequent action to strip the provision. Unless the EPA or the state take affirmative action to remove the provision, it remains federally-enforceable law.
This suit seeks to compel the EPA to remove the provision.