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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:

Gas Drilling Wastewater in the Monongahela River

There is a gas rush in Pennsylvania. The PA Department of Environmental Protection ("DEP") issued more than 1,300 permits for gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale this year, up from 97 in 2007. Extracting gas from the shale involves the use of toxic drilling muds and a stimulation process known as "hydraulic fracturing," whereby millions of gallons of water and toxic chemicals are pumped at high pressure into horizontal wells to break up low-permeability rock and release trapped gas. About half of the injected fluids are recovered, along with high levels of total dissolved solids ("TDS"), heavy metals, and normally occurring radioactive materials that leach out of underground formations. The wastes from drilling muds, hydraulic fracturing fluids, and brines that emerge during the production phase cannot be discharged safely into the waters of the Commonwealth without extensive treatment.

Defending America's First Carbon Cap-and-Trade Program

The Northeastern states have succeeded in launching the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to reduce carbon emissions from regional power plants using a cap-and-trade system. However, an industry lawsuit in New York threatens the entire program. Representing Environmental Advocates of New York, the Environmetal Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Pace Climate and Energy Center, we have submitted amicus briefing to defend this program, and more fundamentally, the states' ability to take proactive measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions in advance of federal climate regulation.  

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first U.S. effort to reduce carbon emissions using a cap and trade system. RGGI has pioneered a model for cost-effective climate action at the state level. The model is particularly important because it incorporates the "polluter pays" principle, demanding that polluters buy the allowances that entitle them to emit carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at auction, rather than getting these valuable allowances for free. Each RGGI state has begun implementing the system, and the first allowance auctions have been held successfully.

The RGGI experiment is being closely watched and copied at every level of government. RGGI has inspired other states to step into the void left by the Bush administration and begin designing flexible regional systems that will limit greenhouse gas emissions. The Western Climate Initiative, the Southwest Climate Change Initiative, and other regional efforts have looked to the RGGI example for both inspiration and technical guidance on the design of an auction-based approach to allocating emissions allowances. Similarly, proposed federal cap-and-trade legislation draws on lessons learned from the RGGI process. We will fight to ensure that the New York legal challenge does not set back these important efforts to stop global warming.

Hatfield's Ferry & Coal Combustion Waste Hatfield's Ferry is located along the Monongahela River that flows north from West Virginia into southwestern Pennsylvania. The Monongahela is heavily used for recreation (boating and sportfishing) and is the main drinking water source for over 90,000 people in the region south of Pittsburgh. It is also the location of one of Pennsylvania's dirtiest coal-fired power plants.
Cleaning Product Chemical Reporting

Earthjustice is taking Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, and other household cleaner manufacturing giants to court for refusing to follow a New York state law requiring them to disclose the chemical ingredients in their products and the health risks they pose.
 
The first-of-its-kind case could have national implications. Independent studies into chemicals contained in cleaning products continue to find health effects ranging from nerve damage to hormone disruption. But ingredient disclosure requirements are virtually non-existent in the United States.
 
The exception is this long-forgotten New York state law which requires household cleaner companies selling their products in New York to file semi-annual reports with the state listing the chemicals contained in their products and describing any company research on these chemicals' health and environmental effects.
 
But in the three decades since the 1976 law was passed, companies failed to file a single report. In the fall of 2008, Earthjustice sent letters to more than a dozen companies asking them to comply with the law. The companies targeted in this lawsuit -- Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Church and Dwight and Reckitt-Benckiser -- each ignored or refused this request.

Brookfield Landfill: Cleaning Up a Toxic Dump

Between 1974 and 1980, tens of thousands of gallons of toxic industrial waste were dumped illegally at the Brookfield landfill in Staten Island. It was one of five New York City landfills involved in a 1982 federal investigation into illegal dumping which sent a city Department of Sanitation official and a hauling operator to prison. While cleanup has concluded at the four other landfills involved in the 1982 investigation, work still has yet to begin on the Brookfield site in Staten Island.

Earthjustice is representing Staten Island residents in a lawsuit against the city of New York to force the cleanup of this abandoned toxic waste dump.

New York Brownfields

Thousands of contaminated and abandoned gas stations, factories, other industiral and commercial sites are poisoning the air, land, and water for communities across New York. The state adopted regulations that fall far short of the landmark law passed in 2003 to clean up many of these brownfields.

In February 2008, the court ruled that contaminated sites must be cleaned up to the statutory cleanup objectives, not simply to the contaminated background levels at the site.

New York Title V Permits The state of New York issued operating permits to two large coal-fired power plants that violate provisions of the federal Clean Air Act. The Environmental Protection Agency should have invalidated the permits but failed to do so. Earthjustice is suing EPA to force it to enforce the law.