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  • Industrial facilities in Louisiana's Cancer Alley.

    Fossil Fuels Program

    Industrial facilities in Louisiana's Cancer Alley. (Alejandro Dávila Fragoso / Earthjustice)
  • Sharon Lavigne of Rise St. James is fighting a massive petrochemical complex.

    Fossil Fuels Program

    Sharon Lavigne, center, of Rise St. James is fighting a massive petrochemical complex. (Julie Dermansky for Earthjustice)
  • Ancient cypress tress are cleared in the Atchafalaya Basin for the Bayou Bridge pipeline.

    Fossil Fuels Program

    Ancient cypress tress are cleared in the Atchafalaya Basin for the Bayou Bridge pipeline. (Julie Dermansky)
  • A train carrying crude oil derailed in the town of Mosier, Oregon, in 2016.

    Fossil Fuels Program

    A train carrying crude oil derailed in the town of Mosier, Oregon, in 2016. (Alan Berner / Seattle Times)
Earthjustice’s Fossil Fuels Program is taking on the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to lock in new oil and gas infrastructure, which would not only accelerate climate change but would also adversely impact our health and our communities.

Signature Work

Precious little time remains to dramatically reduce fossil fuel consumption and avoid the most devastating effects of climate change. Yet the oil and gas industry continues to aggressively build new oil and gas infrastructure in the form of pipelines, petrochemical facilities, and crude oil and gas export terminals.

Earthjustice’s Fossil Fuels Program is combating this build-out by fighting oil and gas extraction, development, and new infrastructure investments. Our Fossil Fuels Program takes a community-centered approach as it partners with communities, regional groups, and national organizations to stop these threats to health and the environment.

Reining in Petrochemicals

At a time when clean energy threatens to replace fossil energy, and the oil and gas industry struggles to make a profit on cheap fracked gas, the industry is making a new big bet: petrochemicals. The industry plans a massive petrochemical build-out of up to 300 new or expanded facilities, primarily in the Gulf and Appalachian regions, to turn fracked gas into toxic chemicals that are the basis of single-use plastics and other plastic products. Many of these facilities are slated to be built in communities already threatened by high levels of pollution. At the current proposed build-out rate, petrochemical facilities across the country could produce 1.34 gigatons greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2030, creating massive threats to human health and devastating impacts on oceans and wildlife.

Working in partnership with frontline communities, the Fossil Fuels Program is using the power of the law to help prevent these toxic facilities from ever being built. We are currently representing residents of St. James Parish, Louisiana, to stop the proposed $9.4 billion Formosa FG/LA Petrochemical Complex. St. James Parish is part an 85-mile stretch along the Mississippi River dubbed “Cancer Alley” because of its high concentration of industrial facilities and high rates of cancer. Formosa plans to build its facility in an area of St. James that is 85% African American. We are challenging Formosa’s recently issued air pollution permits that would allow the facility to emit 13.6 million tons of greenhouse gases and more than 800 tons of toxic air contaminants annually. We are also working on petrochemical infrastructure fights in the Appalachian Ohio River Valley.

Stopping Crude Oil Export Terminals

In 2015, Congress lifted a ban on the export of crude oil, which led to a 70% increase in oil exports in 2019, and an additional 70% increase expected in 2020. Much of this oil originates in the Permian Basin, located in Texas and Southeast New Mexico, which is currently the largest oil-producing basin in the world. In order to export high volumes of crude oil inexpensively, the oil and gas industry is planning to build 11 new offshore deepwater ports in the Gulf region, which would be capable of handling massive international oil tankers (VLCCs) that can carry more than 2 million barrels of oil each. Currently, only one such terminal is in operation in the Gulf of Mexico. The onshore and offshore facilities associated with these projects would cause significant greenhouse gas emissions and pose significant health and environmental risks.

Earthjustice’s Fossil Fuels Program is partnering with local communities and regional groups to stop the construction of new terminals that would threaten our health, our waters, and our climate. We are currently involved in administrative challenges of the Sea Port Oil Terminal near Freeport, Texas, that would produce over 360 million tons of lifecycle climate emissions per year, as well as the proposed Plaquemines Liquids Terminal, located near Ironton, Louisiana, a predominantly African American community that’s already unjustly burdened by pollution. In addition to threatening community health and safety, the Terminal would thwart the state’s plan to restore eroding coastal wetlands, and would impel construction of a new cross-country crude oil pipeline and offshore VLCC.

Fighting Oil Pipelines in the Gulf Region

Oil pipelines cut through communities and lands, contaminate our waters and lock in fossil fuels long into the future. The Fossil Fuels team is monitoring pipeline proposals that would threaten communities and our ability to meet our climate goals.

Upstream Oil and Gas Waste

The oil and gas industry generates nearly 3,400 billion liters of produced water annually. This wastewater contains hypersaline brine, fracking chemicals, trace minerals and radioactive chemicals. Wastewater disposal puts communities and the environmental at risk. In Appalachia, fracking wastewater contains concerning levels of radioactive material. Yet, this “produced water” is spread on roads for de-icing and as road dust, and is dumped into landfills or partially processed in Publicly-Owned Treatment Works. We are working with groups who are impacted by fracking wastewater practices to reduce risk and impact, understanding that the ultimate solutions is to reduce fracking.

Map of Earthjustice offices.

Fossil Fuels Program

50 California St., Ste. 500
San Francisco, CA  94111
(415) 217-2000

Staff

Adrienne Bloch Managing Attorney

Location: San Francisco

Michael Brown Staff Attorney

Location: New Orleans

Megan Hunter Staff Attorney

Location: Chicago

Ilona Mantachian Litigation Assistant/ Legal Practice Administrator

Location: San Francisco

Cyndhia Ramatchandirane Staff Scientist

Location: New Orleans

Corinne Van Dalen Staff Attorney

Location: New Orleans

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