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We’ve Been Winning Environmental Battles for 50 Years. Here’s What We’ll Fight for in Our Next 50.

Today, the concept that the environment can be protected through the power of the law is no longer up for debate.

Grizzly 610 and her two cubs take a walk through Willow Flats in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Grizzly 610 and her two cubs take a walk through Willow Flats in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images / Getty Images

Behind nearly every major environmental win of the last 50 years, you will find Earthjustice.

Because of our legal work, grizzlies still roam free in Yellowstone, and wild salmon still swim through the rivers of the Pacific Northwest. Nearly 50 million acres of national forest stand intact. Mercury emissions from power plants have declined by 80%, saving up to 11,000 lives a year, and cancer-causing pesticides that once poisoned farmworkers are no longer in use.

When the first Earthjustice attorneys walked into a courtroom in 1971, many of our nation’s environmental laws were brand new. A groundswell of public concern about industrial pollution had moved Congress to pass regulations protecting our air, water, wildlife, and public health. Yet it quickly became clear that these laws didn’t mean much without someone pushing for enforcement. The earth needed a good lawyer.

That’s where Earthjustice came in. We partner with organizations, environmental justice groups, Indigenous peoples, and thousands of passionate supporters to take on the most pressing environmental challenges of the day — and we win.

Today, the concept that the environment can be protected through the power of the law is no longer up for debate. And unfortunately, the environment urgently needs those protections more than ever.

We can't afford to fight solely on one front or tackle environmental threats sequentially. We must be aggressive on all fronts. But our first 50 years have prepared us for this. We have demonstrated time and again that we can create systemic change through the power of the law, and we are continuing to work toward a thriving, equitable, and climate-resilient world, leaving no one behind.

Here is the future that Earthjustice is fighting for:

Stop extracting and burning harmful fossil fuels

Climate activists and Indigenous community members rally against the Line 3 pipeline in Solway, Minnesota, on June 7, 2021.
A group of climate activists and Indigenous community members. In front of the group is a line of people holding a banner that reads Honor the treaties. Stop Line 3. Behind the banner, some are holding flags with words on them. The sun is shining, the sky is blue. They are working on the streets.
Kerem Yucel / AFP via Getty Images

In the race against climate change, one thing is clear: we must quit fossil fuels.

We’re fighting the dirty energy industry’s aggressive plans to lock in new oil and gas infrastructure in the form of pipelines, petrochemical facilities, and crude oil and gas export terminals. We’re using the law and the courts to keep this infrastructure — which would dramatically increase fossil fuel consumption and cook our climate — from ever being built.

Key cases:

Power everything with 100% clean electricity

A group of six stand around a set of solar panels. They have sunhats on, sunglasses, and masks. One person with a fabric wrapped around his neck, face, and back of his head is crouched near the back of the panels. Blue skies, wispy clounds, sunny.
A group of volunteers help install a solar power system in Guayama, Puerto Rico, in March 2021.
Erika P. Rodriguez for Earthjustice

Our goal is simple: a swift and equitable transition to zero emissions and 100% clean energy.

That means working with policymakers — across the U.S. and internationally — to move off the old, planet-warming economy built on burning fossil fuels, and into a future where everything is electrified.

Earthjustice is fighting for the right of local communities to keep dirty energy out of their lives and open their doors to a clean energy future.

Key cases:

Secure clean drinking water and clean air as a right for all, not a privileged few

A kayaker on the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River in Illinois. They are wearing an orange life jacket. The kayak is yellow. Ripples on the water surface. Green and magenta foliage along the sides of the river.
A kayaker on the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River in Illinois, which has been threatened by coal ash.
Eco-Justice Collaborative / CC BY-SA 2.0

Earthjustice is working to strengthen protections for the air we breathe and the water we drink, and to hold polluters accountable when they violate those protections. Air and water pollution disproportionately harms communities that are already burdened by racism and classism.

We wield the power of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act to ensure that all people can live full lives with lower risks of cancer, heart attacks, and debilitating asthma episodes.

Key cases:

Build a justice-centered environmental movement in partnership with communities and allies

Four Members of RISE St. James stand in a field. They are wearing yellow tee shirts with the words Rise St. Jame, and a graphic of a raised printed in the front. There is a sign on the floor braced against the legs of Sharon Lavigne, who is second from the left. The sign reads stop killing us with toxic emissions. Sharon is holding a red octagonal stop sign. Gail LeBoeuf, third from the left, is holding a bouquet of yellow flowers in their left hand and another small object in their other hand.
From left: Myrtle Felton, Sharon Lavigne, Gail LeBoeuf and Rita Cooper, members of RISE St. James, are fighting a proposed petrochemical plant in St. James Parish, Louisiana, with legal representation from Earthjustice.
Gerald Herbert / AP

Earthjustice partners with communities around the country to uphold the principle that no one’s home should be treated as a sacrifice zone. Polluters often prey on communities disempowered by many forms of injustice, including racism, colonialism, and xenophobia. Environmental fights are inextricably linked to related forms of justice.

We use laws like the National Environmental Policy Act to ensure our allies’ voices are heard in court. We take on cases like the fight against Trump’s border wall, where racism and xenophobia lead to serious scars on the environment. Our climate strategy looks beyond just greenhouse gases and focuses on how we leave no one behind in the transitions we must make. And we join coalitions in related areas of justice to make our legal tools available to a wider movement.

Key cases:

Remove toxic, dangerous products from our daily lives

The backside of four marines dressed in silver-colored suits. They spray white foam onto a line of orange and yellow flames. A cloud of black smoke emanates from the flame.
Marines extinguish a fire on a military base in North Carolina in 2013. Earthjustice has sued the Department of Defense for illegally burning stockpiles of firefighting foam containing toxic PFAS chemicals.
Lance Cpl. Shawn Valosin / U.S. Marine Corps

We’re pushing for bans or significant restrictions on chemicals that are harming communities and the planet. There are no safe levels for chemicals that remain in our bodies and our drinking water for decades.

Key cases:

Farm sustainably to ensure healthy lives, lands, and climate

Fruits and vegetables growing in raised beds in a garden. The front side of a greenhouse with a door open. Inside the greenhouse are more plants. Sun is low, shining against the red brick surface of the buildings behind the garden.
Plants grow inside a green house at the Rockaway Youth Task Force in New York on August 11, 2020.
Jeenah Moon for Earthjustice

Our current food system threatens our health by polluting the air and water, imperiling native wildlife, and exposing workers and consumers to dangerous chemicals. Big Ag also poisons our climate, releasing about one-third of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

We're using our track record of success at cleaning up dirty industries to reform our nation’s food and farming system. We partner with activists, environmental justice communities, sustainable farmers and ranchers, scientists, and others to help accelerate this shift to a safer, more climate-friendly food system.

Key cases:

Safeguard forever our public lands and waters

Aerial view of Prince of Wales Island, part of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Tall green trees surrounded by blue water. Hillsides in the back. White clouds in the sky.
Aerial view of Prince of Wales Island, part of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.
Andrea Izzotti / Getty Images

The evolution of dynamic wild ecosystems unfolds over centuries — but it takes far less time to destroy them. The Earth’s last remaining wild places are under constant threat from extractive industries and reckless development, and the growing climate crisis.

Earthjustice is preserving our last wild places by advocating for strong protections of our land and ocean ecosystems, and by reducing stressors that are forcing nature into decline.

Key cases:

Halt the mass extinction of species

A male greater sage-grouse performs a spring courtship ritual in Carbon County, Wyo.
A male greater sage-grouse performs a spring courtship ritual in Carbon County, Wyo.
Noppadol Paothong

We are living through a mass extinction of humanity’s making. Without stronger protections for wildlife, thousands more species could disappear forever due to climate change and habitat loss.

We wield the nation’s strongest environmental law, the Endangered Species Act, to force government agencies to protect wildlife life on the brink and restore failing populations.

Key cases: