An op-ed by Mike Faith, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
From its ancient forests, mighty river systems, and fertile farmlands to its snow-capped peaks and rugged coastline, the Pacific Northwest is blessed with an abundance of natural riches. The people who live in this special place are passionately committed to preserving it for generations to come—a commitment Earthjustice’s Northwest regional office in Seattle has shared for more than 25 years.
From our early—and ongoing—work to protect majestic old-growth forests, safeguard Puget Sound’s orcas, and save our iconic wild salmon, to our current efforts to block massive coal export facilities and shipment of dangerous crude oil by rail, we’re taking on the region’s most critical environmental challenges. And by helping to catalyze the shift to clean energy and away from fossil fuels, Earthjustice is protecting the environment and promoting healthy communities for everyone. Learn about some of the office's current and past legal cases.
WORKING TO REPLACE FOSSIL FUELS WITH CLEAN ENERGY
Earthjustice works on many fronts to reduce our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, which are harming our climate and our health, and to speed the transition to clean, renewable energy.
Historically, our Northwest office played a role in ending the use of coal-fired power in Washington: Our litigation helped block the last new coal-fired power plant proposed in the state and Earthjustice cases created the leverage that led to the 2011 commitment to shut down the TransAlta coal-fired plant, the last operating coal plant in the state.
Today we’re fighting industry’s attempt to turn ports in the Pacific Northwest into hubs for shipping coal and crude oil to markets in China, India, and elsewhere. These exports would exacerbate climate change and pose severe risks to the environment and to health and safety in communities along the train routes. They would also help lock the world into an even more extensive long-term dependency on fossil fuels. Finally, Earthjustice is working to advance clean energy policies and greater energy efficiency in the Northwest.
PROTECTING PUGET SOUND
Puget Sound, the second largest estuary in the United States, is one of the most ecologically diverse ecosystems in North America, supporting an abundance of plant and animal life. The region is also home to millions of people who cherish its spectacular coastline, forests, and mountains.
Earthjustice has worked for years to protect and restore the health of Puget Sound. We’ve fought to save its iconic wildlife, bringing litigation that secured Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for the Sound’s remaining Southern Resident orcas in 2005. Our work also has paved the way for restoring habitat for endangered salmon in the Skagit River delta, and decades ago we provided the legal expertise that helped initiate a process that led to the removal of two large, fish-killing dams on the Elwha River. Finally, we continue to work on ensuring that Puget Sound’s waters are clean and healthy for generations to come.
RESTORING SALMON RUNS IN THE COLUMBIA-SNAKE RIVER BASIN
Once among the largest salmon-producing river systems, the Columbia-Snake ecosystem has been made virtually unlivable for salmon, with 13 species that use these rivers for migration now listed under the ESA. Massive federal dams kill and injure tens of thousands of juvenile salmon as they attempt to migrate down these rivers each year, and conditions in the reservoirs behind the dams are lethal to both juvenile and adult salmon. Water in the Columbia River has been over-appropriated for years, with fl ow requirements to protect salmon often going unmet. Climate change will only worsen the situation in this already stressed basin.
For years Earthjustice has represented conservation and fishing groups in litigation aimed at restoring this ecosystem so it can support self-sustaining wild salmon runs. We’re fighting for a dramatic increase in the amount of water spilled over dams during the migration season for young salmon (water the Bonneville Power Administration would prefer to use to generate electricity, often in the summer when it can be sold at a high price to California), and to remove four harmful federal dams on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington that threaten the species’ survival.
DEFENDING OLD-GROWTH FOREST ECOSYSTEMS
In its first decade, Earthjustice’s Northwest office spearheaded a litigation campaign to stop the liquidation of the region’s remaining old-growth forests. This effort led in the mid-1990s to the nation’s first large-scale ecosystem management plan, the Northwest Forest Plan, which set aside old-growth reserves for species that depend on old-growth habitat and established an aquatic conservation strategy to protect watersheds and salmon.
Industry has fought back hard against this plan for years, and while we have successfully blocked most of its attempts to roll back forest protections, the fight continues to this day. In collaboration with other Earthjustice regional offices, the Northwest office also helped wage a successful decade-long defense of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a federal law protecting 45 million acres of our most pristine national forest lands across the country from road-building and other development.
PROTECTING COMMUNITIES FROM HARMFUL PESTICIDES
Close to one billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops each year in the United States, and residues of chemicals they contain make their way into our food supply, homes, neighborhoods, and waterways. Representing farmworkers, public health advocates, conservationists, and others, Earthjustice works to phase out the most dangerous pesticides and to impose safeguards on those that remain in use.
Our Northwest office’s pesticides work has contributed to the nationwide phase-out of particularly deadly pesticides, including vinclozolin, endosulfan, and the highly neurotoxic insecticide AZM, originally developed as a nerve gas. We also fought successfully for the adoption of pesticide buffer zones along salmon streams, and for medical monitoring of farmworkers in the Northwest who handle and mix neurotoxic pesticides.
Contact Northwest Office
810 Third Ave., Ste. 610
Seattle, WA 98104
Patti Goldman Managing Attorney, Northwest Office
Ashley Bennett Associate Attorney
Kristen Boyles Staff Attorney
Diana Brechtel Supervising Litigation Paralegal
Janette Brimmer Staff Attorney
Amanda Goodin Staff Attorney
Jan Hasselman Staff Attorney
Domino Hawks Litigation Assistant II
Lisa Lange Technical Project Lead
Lina Miller Furst Director of Major Gifts
Cheryl McEvoy Legal Practice Manager
Marisa Ordonia Senior Associate Attorney
Paulo Palugod Associate Attorney
Jaimini Parekh Associate Attorney
Dawn Petricciani Major Gifts Officer
Todd True Senior Staff Attorney
Stefanie Tsosie Senior Associate Attorney