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Mar. 18, 2021

Earthjustice in the Biden Era

Stepping into a new era, we are awed by all that was not lost. Now is the time to make major progress on the interlocking crises we face.

Four Years Holding the Line

The Trump administration sold out public lands to the fossil fuel industry. Silenced government scientists. Evaded their duty to the American people.

Earthjustice led the nation’s legal resistance against this unprecedented assault. We filed nearly 200 lawsuits to prove in court the administration’s unlawful actions. We have won more than 80% of challenges decided.

Michigan's most polluted zip code is represented by a young activist at Detroit March for Justice, Oct. 3, 2015, in Detroit, Mich.
Rex Larsen / AP Images for Sierra Club

Protecting Your Right to Protect Your Community

Stopped a power grab that would have removed the right of the people to advocate for their own needs, on their own terms, after being harmed by pollution

Grizzly 815 (aka Mini Mom, aka Obsidian sow) with her three cubs-of-the-year in Yellowstone National Park, May 10, 2019.
Rob Kroenert / Getty Images via 500px Plus

Survival of the Grizzlies

Challenged regulatory rollbacks that threatened critical habitat and vulnerable wildlife

Caribou in the Western Arctic, around the Lake Teshekpuk area.
Kiliii Yuyan for Earthjustice

Arctic for the Ages

Fought attempts to sell out our public lands to destructive and polluting industries

“We knew how much work it would take, not only to defend, but to recover. And the reality of the Trump administration was so much worse than we could have anticipated.” Abigail Dillen
President of Earthjustice
Dan Nanamkin, of the Colville Nez Perce Native American tribe in Nespelem, Wash., right, drums with a procession through the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, N.D., Dec. 4, 2016.
David Goldman / AP Photo

Denying the Dakota Access Pipeline

Confronted efforts to deny the people's right to protect their environment from dangerous, polluting projects

In these cases, and so many more, we left the courts with favorable rulings or were able to clear pathways for action by the Biden administration.

Across all this work, we’ve been creating replicable strategies for grassroots movements to level the playing field against polluters in court and scalable models for bringing environmental solutions to life.

Protecting Your Right to Protect Your Community

After a 10-year legal battle, the people of River Rouge, Michigan, a historically Black community near Detroit, successfully pushed a utility company, DTE Energy, to close three coal-fired power plants that have eroded public health in the community.

Michigan's most polluted zip code is represented by a young activist at Detroit March for Justice, Oct. 3, 2015, in Detroit, Mich.
Rex Larsen / AP Images for Sierra Club
Michigan's most polluted zip code is represented by a young activist at Detroit March for Justice, Oct. 3, 2015.

Through a separate settlement agreement with the company, the community would receive funding for electric buses and other air quality improvements that would help the residents begin to reclaim their health and environment.

That’s when the Trump administration intervened: In an unprecedented move, Trump appointees at the Department of Justice filed an appeal urging the court to reject the agreement, arguing that the community couldn’t settle their Clean Air Act lawsuit for relief beyond what the executive branch was willing to approve.

This radical authoritarian view threatened the ability of every community in the country to advocate for themselves in courts of law after being harmed by pollution.

Earthjustice filed a challenge to the DOJ petition, creating a window for action by the new administration.

In February 2021, President Biden's Environmental Protection Agency backed down on the appeal, securing the community’s benefits and protecting our fundamental right to protect our communities from environmental threats.

Michigan's most polluted zip code is represented by a young activist at Detroit March for Justice, Oct. 3, 2015, in Detroit, Mich.
Rex Larsen / AP Images for Sierra Club
Michigan's most polluted zip code is represented by a young activist at Detroit March for Justice, Oct. 3, 2015.
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Survival of the Grizzlies

Human impacts including climate change have driven Yellowstone’s iconic grizzly bear to the brink of extinction.

Grizzly 815 (aka Mini Mom, aka Obsidian sow) with her three cubs-of-the-year in Yellowstone National Park, May 10, 2019.
Rob Kroenert / Getty Images via 500px Plus
Grizzly 815 (aka Mini Mom, aka Obsidian sow) with her three cubs-of-the-year in Yellowstone National Park, May 10, 2019.

Despite this, the Trump administration in 2017 stripped grizzlies of their protections under the Endangered Species Act. This move gave license to foolish plans to hunt the bears for pure trophy.

Earthjustice acted on behalf of conservation groups, using the government’s own science to repudiate the administration.

After two more years in the courts — including a nail-biting race against the clock and an 11th-hour reprieve only days before scheduled grizzly hunts in Wyoming and Idaho — our work paid off, when a Ninth Circuit judge affirmed that the Trump administration’s actions were illegal and restored full protections for the grizzly bear.

We are also challenging the Trump administration’s weakening of the Endangered Species Act itself through court action or a rulemaking process.

In the meantime, wins like the grizzly case shore up specific species’ chances at avoiding unrecoverable population losses.

Grizzly 815 (aka Mini Mom, aka Obsidian sow) with her three cubs-of-the-year in Yellowstone National Park, May 10, 2019.
Rob Kroenert / Getty Images via 500px Plus
Grizzly 815 (aka Mini Mom, aka Obsidian sow) with her three cubs-of-the-year in Yellowstone National Park, May 10, 2019.
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Denying the Dakota Access Pipeline

The message of the Standing Rock Sioux is simple: Water is life and must be protected.

When a pipeline company ignored the Tribe to push ahead with an oil pipeline across sacred waters and lands, resistance sprang up from around the country and the world.

The Trump administration, buoyed by campaign contributions from the company’s CEO, took action to accelerate construction of the pipeline. Oil started flowing, but the Tribe pressed on.

Represented by Earthjustice, they fought the reckless permit in court. A judge ruled the permit illegal and ordered the government to conduct the necessary environmental review.

The review process now takes place under the new administration, and the pressure is building on President Biden to shut down the pipeline for good.

Dan Nanamkin, of the Colville Nez Perce Native American tribe in Nespelem, Wash., right, drums with a procession through the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, N.D., Dec. 4, 2016.
David Goldman / AP Photo
Dan Nanamkin, of the Colville Nez Perce Native American tribe in Nespelem, Wash., right, drums with a procession through the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, N.D., Dec. 4, 2016.
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Arctic for the Ages

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an expanse of wilderness of immeasurable ecological value, was once deemed by a bipartisan federal consensus to be too precious to allow access to the fossil fuel industry.

But in its final year, the Trump administration pulled out all the stops, weakening environmental protection in the Arctic and taking illegal actions to expand drilling on lands and waters across the entire oil-rich region.

At stake were hundreds of millions of acres of irreplaceable tundra, mountains, river, and ocean — places of sanctity to local tribes and sanctuary for an array of wildlife, including polar bears, walruses, and migratory birds from all 50 states.

Earthjustice waged legal battles across the region, successfully blocking the first offshore oil-drilling development in federal Arctic waters, and buying time for the Biden administration to place a temporary moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

Caribou in the Western Arctic, around the Lake Teshekpuk area.
Kiliii Yuyan for Earthjustice
Caribou in the Western Arctic, around the Lake Teshekpuk area.
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Biden & Beyond

In the 2020 election, the voters spoke for an administration with an ambitious environmental agenda. President Biden has directed his agencies to review many of the decisions that we have brought before courts. Earthjustice is forging ahead, turning our legal work into solutions to the crises we’re all facing.

The Climate Crisis

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 economy based on burning fossil fuels and into a future where everything is electrified.

In this transition, we are working to ensure government investments in climate solutions benefit the communities that have borne the brunt of pollution.

Solar panels on the roof of the parking garage at Kapiolani medical center in Oahu, Hawaii.
Matt Mallams for Earthjustice
  • We advocate in the complex energy proceedings where decisions on clean versus dirty power projects get made.
  • We look at the fine print from utilities and take them to court when they cheat customers who have rooftop solar.
  • We advise city leaders who want to invest in electric buses and all-electric over gas-powered homes.
  • We fight the deadly works of the fossil fuel industry at every pollution point:

The Racial Justice Crisis

Environmental discrimination is deepening racial inequalities across the board, as communities that lack financial wealth and political influence are often targeted for projects and regulatory rollbacks that are harmful to their health and environment.

These places are often home to tribes and people of color who have been historically disenfranchised.

Earthjustice partners with communities around the country to defend themselves from pollution, using laws like the National Environmental Policy Act to get them access to justice and a voice in federal courts.

People participate in a national mile-long march to highlight the push for clean water in Flint February 19, 2016 in Flint, Mich.
Bill Pugliano / Getty Images
  • Our clients are Louisianan families who are fighting petrochemical factories that will worsen the already poor air quality in Cancer Alley.
  • They’re civil rights groups suing to prevent the weakening of rules meant to keep toxic chemicals out of the air that surrounds old, inefficient power plants in Texas and drinking water in Michigan.
  • They’re farmworkers who are pushing for bans on dangerous pesticides like chlorpyrifos that are causing serious harm to children and adults.
  • And they’re Indigenous people who are challenging oil and gas pipelines on sacred land, demanding respect for their tribal rights and protections for their cultural birthright.
Agricultural workers harvest strawberries in Salinas, Calif.
Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

The Extinction Crisis

Three gray wolves in a forest clearing.
Derek R. Audette / Shutterstock

We are living through a mass extinction of humanity’s making. In the coming decades, thousands more species could disappear forever due to climate change and habitat loss.

For decades, the Endangered Species Act has given Earthjustice a critical means of going to court to force government agencies to protect habitat and stop human activities harming the most at-risk species.

  • We are now fighting to undo efforts by industry and the Trump administration to weaken the landmark law.
  • We are also pushing to expand the safety net for life on this planet through a commitment to expand habitats. The plan, known as 30x30, seeks to protect 30% of the world’s lands and waters by 2030 for habitat. President Biden has committed the United States to the goal, and we will push for its implementation.

We’re calling for dedicated enforcement.

Our litigators are working to wipe clean Trump’s illegal environmental actions from federal dockets. While we’re confident some of the damage can be reversed through due process, we are prepared for legal challenges from industry. We know the law is on our side.

We’re pushing for better protections.

Earthjustice’s policy team is working on a proactive agenda to make our nation’s environmental protections stronger than ever. With leaders in key federal agencies who value democratic governance and science-based policy, we can shape the nation’s long-term future.

We’re launching proven solutions.

President Biden rallied voters with a message of unity and solutions. We need both to realize the vision Earthjustice has been working toward for 50 years.

With smarter rules and stronger enforcement, we can look to the future and begin to transform our economy and correct injustices through clean energy, agricultural innovation, modern environmental technologies, and more. Will you join us?