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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:

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.

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.
FCC Towers

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.

Air Toxics: Enforcing Deadlines Lawsuits to compel EPA to create overdue regulations to control air toxic emissions and protect public health
Air Toxics: Challenging Weak Standards Earthjustice has filed several suits to force EPA to establish more effective regulations for key industrial categories
Smog in the Nation's Capital The Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly approved inadequate plans to impove air quality in the nation's capital and Earthjustice has repeatedly filed suit to force the agency to obey the law. The agency -- and the city -- are stubborn, however, and the case goes on.
Industrial Boilers Challenge to EPA's defective Clean Air Act emission standards for industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and process heaters.