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:
|EPA's Global Warming Endangerment Finding Challenged||Earthjustice is representing Environmental Defense Fund as an intervener against industry court challenges to the U.S. EPA’s scientific finding that global warming pollution endangers public health in America.|
|Chlorpyrifos Pesticide Challenge||Earthjustice is representing Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) in challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to make a decision on the banning of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The toxic chemical is widely used in orchards and agricultural fields across the country. Exposure to the chemical has been linked to both short and long term health effects, such as headaches, seizures, low birth weights and developmental delays.|
|Ingredients in Gulf Oil Dispersants Challenged||Earthjustice is representing the Gulf Restoration Network and the Florida Wildlife Federation in challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to reveal the secret ingredients in chemical dispersants that the agency has deemed eligible for use in oil spills.|
|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.
|Na Wai Eha Treatment Plant Environmental Impact Statement||Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of Maui community groups Hui o Na Wai 'Eha and Maui Tomorrow Foundation challenging plans by Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. (A&B) to build a water treatment plant that would take contested stream flows from several Na Wai 'Eha streams, "the Four Great Waters" of Waihe'e River and Waiehu, 'Iao, and Waikapu streams on Maui, so that A&B can supply the treated water to its development projects and also sell it to Maui County. The proposal would redirect nine million gallons per day of diverted stream flows that A&B has claimed is essential for its Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S) plantation and instead use it for A&B's land and water development plans.|
|Seminole Power Plant||
Earthjustice is opposed to the construction of new coal plants because of the growing crisis of global warming and because they are the dirtiest way of generating electricity. Coal fired power plants are an extremely polluting antiquated technology and the Seminole Electric plant would pollute the air a lot more than older coal power plants of similar size. The permit didn't meet the Clean Air Act requirements.
|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.
|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.|
|Stockwater Exemption||On June 30, 2009, Earthjustice's Seattle office filed suit in state court in Washington, on behalf of third and fourth generation farmers against a huge industrial cattle feedlot. The Five Corners Family Farmers are a group of dryland wheat farmers whose families have been living and farming in the area since the early 1900s. Franklin County, Washington is one of the driest counties in the state and the Family Farmers group uses conservative farming practices in order to produce wheat without irrigation. The new industrial feedlot, Easterday Ranches, Incorporated, will pump over a million gallons of groundwater total per day from an area otherwise closed to new groundwater withdrawals due to decreasing aquifer levels. The Family Farmers worry that their wells, the source of all their water for drinking and household uses, will be threatened by this huge new, unregulated, industrial use.|
|Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rulemaking||
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is promulgating regulations to implement statutory changes enacted from the 2007 legislative session. These new regulations are expected to substantially change the state permitting process for oil and gas development in Colorado. For the first time, the regulations will systemically address public health, environmental and wildlife concerns.
Earthjustice has been asked to represent the conservation community in these proceedings, to make the case for regulations that are open and transparent and protective of the environment, and to counter an intense campaign by the oil and gas industry to weaken the proposed rules.
|Air Pollution Haze in Our National Parks||
The 1977 Clean Air Act set a national goal of cleaning up dirty air in major national parks and wilderness areas. Decades later, only a small handful of states have submitted legally required plans to comply. The result: power plant and factory emissions continue to obscure views of beloved landmarks in national parks across the country including Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, Glacier, Big Bend, Acadia, Sequoia, and Yosemite.
On October 21, 2008, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund and National Parks Conservation Association over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's failure to enforce deadlines for the states to adopt these clean air plans. The Clean Air Act required states to submit enforceable plans to EPA by last December to clean up hazy skies in parks and wilderness areas. As of June 2008, only six had submitted plans, according to EPA sources. The Earthjustice letter gave notice of intent to sue EPA unless the agency enforces the deadline against delinquent states within 60 days.
According to the National Park Service, human-caused air pollution reduces visibility in most national parks throughout the country. Average visual range -- the farthest a person can see on a given day -- in most of the western United States is now about one-half to two-thirds of what it would be without man-made air pollution (about 140 miles). In most of the east, the average visual range is about one-fifth of what it would be under natural conditions (about 90 miles).
Earthjustice is suing EPA on behalf of conservation groups.
|TMDL Challenge: Lake Okeechobee Tributaries||
Apart from its ecological significance as the second largest lake in the United States, Lake Okeechobee is also the largest surface water drinking source in Florida and the headwaters to the Everglades. Today, as a consequence of constantly accumulating phosphorus and nitrogen pollution, Lake Okeechobee periodically develops extensive toxic algae blooms. This case follows a successful Florida law challenge to a nutrient limit proposed for the nine northern tributaries to Lake Okeechobee. In that case, the state agency proposed a nutrient limit for the tributaries far too high to maintain the federal and state standards for water quality. The evidence in that case indicated a much lower limit would be appropriate. In response to this decision, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed such a limit. Major agricultural polluters then put pressure on EPA to sharply increase the phosphorus limit, and the state developed an elaborate formula which produced a nutrient limit for the tributaries at a level 70 percent higher than the level initially proposed by EPA. In mid-summer 2008, EPA finalized its rule and adopted the higher concentration limit for phosphorus. An unreasonably high phosphorus limit for the main tributaries to the lake will serve as a vehicle to legalize the pollution rather than bring it under control.
Earthjustice is suing on behalf of conservationists to compel the EPA to set more protective pollution limits.
|Anacostia River: Sediment Pollution Limits||
The Anacostia River flows through Maryland and the District of Columbia. Even though it flows through our nation's capital, it is heavily polluted -- raw sewage, trash, and other contaminents flow into the river, especially after heavy rains. Erosion, runoff from grimy streets, and an antiquated sewer system contribute to the problem.
The Clean Water Act requires that each state and the District of Columbia must set water quality standards which would protect the public health or welfare and enhance the quality of water. The state or the EPA must then set limits on the amount of pollutants that can enter a specific waterbody in any given day (total maximum daily loads, or TMDLs), and the EPA must approve TMDLs only if they are adequate to achieve the state's water quality standards. Because contaminated sediment is one of the major causes of water quality impairment in the Anacostia, the District and Maryland must set TMDLs to limit sediment pollution along with other pollutants classified as "suspended solids."
In response to a previous Earthjustice lawsuit, the District of Columbia and Maryland adopted a daily cap for suspended solids in the Anacostia, but these caps are far too high to make the river suitable for recreation or even aesthestic enjoyment. Earthjustice is challenging the EPA's adoption of these inadequate pollution caps. The Anacostia River deserves better.
|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.
|Snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park||
For eight years, the Bush administration has worked to reverse the National Park Service's 2001 decision to eliminate recreational snowmobiling -- and its adverse air, noise, and wildlife impacts -- from Yellowstone, the nation's first national park. In 2003, Earthjustice attorneys succeeded in overturning in court the Bush administration's first Yellowstone snowmobile plan, under which 950 snowmobiles would have been allowed into the park each winter day. In 2007, the Bush administration finalized a second plan authorizing 540 snowmobiles in Yellowstone each winter day -- twice the number of recent winter seasons, during which the Park Service's own noise and air quality thresholds were violated by snowmobiles. The Bush administration's plan to double the number of snowmobiles within Yellowstone contradicted the recommendation of Park Service's own biologists, who had concluded that lower vehicle numbers were necessary to protect the park's winter-stressed wildlife.
On September 15, 2008, a federal court in Washington, D.C., rejected the Bush administration's 540-snowmobile plan in a second Earthjustice lawsuit, reaffirming that "the fundamental purpose of the national park system is to conserve park resources and values." In the words of the court, the administration's decision to allow a doubling of snowmobile use within Yellowstone "clearly elevate[d] use over conservation of park resources and values" contrary to Park Service mandates. The court set aside the Bush administration's plan and directed the Park Service to develop a new regulation protective of Yellowstone National Park.
The Bush administration refused. Citing a November 2008 Wyoming court decision that left the Park Service with the authority to develop a new winter use plan, in December 2008 the Bush administration published a regulation that will allow 720 snowmobiles into the park each winter day -- 180 more than the plan invalidated only three months before by the Washington, D.C., court. Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit on behalf of five conservation groups challenging the Bush administration's eleventh-hour effort to perpetuate recreational snowmobiling within Yellowstone National Park.