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:
|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 & 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.|
|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.|
|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 On March 23, 2007, a federal judge agreed and rescinded the permits.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.
|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.
|Kensington Mine Project||
In issuing a permit for a gold mine, the Army Corps of Engineers considered the mine’s chemically processed, toxic mine waste to be “fill material” under the Clean Water Act, bypassing strict EPA limits for this type of pollution. As a result, millions of tons of mine waste will be dumped into a pristine sub-alpine lake in Southeast Alaska, killing all fish and aquatic life in the lake.
In March 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal announced that the permit to allow the mine waste to be dumped in the lake was illegal and would be struck down. On October 29, 2007, the same court—in this case, all 27 active judges—refused to reconsider the decision made in March.
In a 6–3 decision on June 22, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. The mine is now operating and dumping its waste in the lake, but Earthjustice and others are working to change agency rules to avoid this result in the future.
|Kane County Signage & RS 2477||
Kane County, Utah, is home to some of our nation's most treasured public lands and wilderness. Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area lie within its boundaries. But county executives assert that scores of river corridors, cow paths, hiking trails and streambeds in Kane County are county "highways" under an 1866 federal statute known as R.S. 2477 -- a statute repealed by Congress in 1976.
In 2003, the county removed numerous signs that the Bureau of Land Management installed to identify routes and limit certain types of ORV use that had damaged the land. In 2005 county officials posted their own signs which indicated that other routes the BLM had closed to off-road vehicles were actually open. In August 2005, the county adopted an ordinance that would open to off-road vehicle use scores of trails to off-road vehicle use on lands where such use is prohibited under federal rules, including hiking trails and stream beds inside Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, routes within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and trails and stream beds closed to off-road vehicle use in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
This action allows destructive off-road vehicles (ORV) to use many of these trails and streambeds, endangering the environment and exposing cultural artifacts to damage and theft. Many of these trails are remote and unmaintained, which will put ORV riders at risk.
In October 2005, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society to protect these important public lands for all Americans. In September 2009, the Tenth Court of Appeal rejected the county's attempt to take the law into its own hands, reasoning that the county's actions violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.
|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.|
|Shoreline Certification Rules||A state board's improper definition of shoreline is contributing to the loss of beaches throughout Hawai'i.|
|Air Toxics: Mercury & Power Plants||
The EPA exempted power plants from Clean Air Act regulations, even though these power plants emit into the air tons of mercury and other toxins -- known threats to human health.
In February 2008, a federal appeals court ruled that the EPA did not have the authority to exempt the power plants.
|Greenhouse Gases & Global Warming||The Environmental Protection Agency has taken the position that it will not regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as "pollutants" under the Clean Air Act. Earthjustice challenged that position in court, on behalf of Sierra Club. On April 2, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court said that the Clean Air Act does give the EPA the authority to regulate these emissions from cars.|
|Eight-Hour Ozone Standards||On April 30, 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency released final rules to control smog. Unfortunately, the rules fall well short of what public health and the law require. An Earthjustice suit is pending in federal court.|
|Power Plant Threat in Yellowstone||The government blessed a new coal-fired power plant planned for central Montana that would pollute the air over Yellowstone and other clean-air places despite objections from the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Earthjustice challenged the plant in court, the government withdrew the approval, and the case was dismissed.|
|Wolverines: Legal Protection Needed||
The wolverine is generally intolerant of human disturbance in its habitat. Its presence in a area signifies untrammeled, uncompromised wilderness. This lawsuit asked a federal court to overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's refusal to consider new legal protections for the wolverine.
In October 2006, a federal judged ruled that the FWS wrongly rejected scientific information regarding the wolverine that "shows a dramatic loss in range, the tangible decrease in population with the commensurate threat of genetic isolation of subpopulations, and the threat posed by human encroachment on wolverines."
Tens of thousands of communication towers dot landscapes across the country. In Texas alone, there are over 10,000 of these towers; the FCC receives approximately 20-25 new applications for tower construction each month. These towers pose a significant threat to endangered bird species, especially migratory birds. This filing sought to compel the FCC to revise its rulemaking and consider the impacts within an environmental impact study that a new tower may pose.
In February 2008, a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC did not follow the law to carefully consider the possible adverse effects to migratory birds when it issues permits for towers.