Alongside our clients and partners, and with you, Earthjustice is holding the government accountable to our environmental laws and advancing protections for all, at the most powerful line of defense—the court of law. We are fighting against attacks unleashed by politicians and polluters to dismantle commonsense environmental and public health safeguards, and against attempts to undermine and cut the public out of the democratic process.
Learn about some of Earthjustice's important legal fights now underway, including new litigation and new phases of committed, long-running legal battles to ensure the right to a healthy environment for all.
Methane is one of the most dangerous byproducts of oil and gas operations. It is the second-biggest driver of climate change. Methane emissions are often accompanied by toxic air pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and ethylbenzene.
The Bureau of Land Management's methane and waste prevention rule requires oil and gas companies to reduce venting, flaring and leaks from industry operations on our public lands, preventing waste of publicly-owned natural gas and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. BLM announced on June 15 that it was staying the rule’s compliance deadlines, in defiance of the courts. On July 10, a coalition of environmental and tribal citizen groups, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit over the indefinite delay.
On Oct. 4, the U.S. District Court of Northern California ruled that the Trump administration illegally suspended the BLM rule without necessary public comment. Despite this ruling, on Dec. 8, the administration once again attempted to stay compliance for one year while it rewrites the safeguard. On Dec. 19, Earthjustice represented a coalition of conservation and tribal citizen groups in filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the suspension.
On Feb. 23, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California rejected that second attempt. As a result, the Waste Prevention Rule was back in effect pending a final ruling from the court. The same day the court issued the preliminary injunction, Secretary Zinke proposed his third attempt, this time proposing a rule that would do away with the Waste Prevention Rule’s protections for good.
In early April, a Wyoming federal court suspended the rule, ordering the enforcement of key provisions of the Waste Prevention Rule be suspended until BLM finalizes a rule to replace it. On Apr. 20, on behalf of its clients, Earthjustice filed a motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit seeking to halt the suspension of the Rule.
Earthjustice is representing the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Western Organization of Resource Councils, and The Wilderness Society.
"We are asking the appellate court to put these common-sense rules back in place to protect taxpayers and the health of people living day in and day out with the flares and air pollution caused by wasteful drilling practices,” said Earthjustice attorney Robin Cooley. “The District Court ignored settled legal principles and considered only industry’s interests and not those of the American people.” See legal documents & more.
The Tohono O’odham Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Hopi Tribe filed a complaint in U.S. District Court challenging the approval by the U.S. Forest Service of a plan by Hudbay Minerals Inc. of Canada to develop a sprawling toxic open pit copper mine on public land. The tribes are represented by Earthjustice.
The proposed Rosemont Copper Mine would be located about 30 miles south of Tucson in the Santa Rita Mountains, a place of great cultural and ecological significance. The tribes, representing more than 50,000 enrolled members, have resided in this region since time immemorial and have a deep connection to the land and wildlife. The proposed mine site lies within the tribes’ ancestral homelands and contains numerous sacred sites, ancestral villages and burial grounds. The mine site is also home to the endangered jaguar, an animal of spiritual significance to the tribes.
The proposed mine, to be developed by Hudbay Minerals Inc., would be devastating to these cultural and natural values. The mine would transform 3,653 acres of National Forest land that is publicly-owned and of important cultural and religious significance to the tribes into an industrial mining zone. The mine would require the excavation of an open pit over a mile wide and a half-mile deep to be served by roads, ore processing facilities, and groundwater pumping. The pit will be surrounded by waste piles containing over a billion tons of waste rock and tailings.
The Forest Service admits that the damage to cultural resources would be “severe, irreversible and irretrievable.” It would destroy 82 historic places and desecrate at least 31 known gravesites, though numerous others are likely to be discovered during the excavation process. Despite these impacts, the Forest Service approved the Final Environmental Impact Statement last June to allow the mine to proceed.
In total, a dozen Arizona tribes have expressed concerns with this mine project, participating in meetings, public hearings, consultations. The Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui Tribes have passed formal resolutions of opposition in 2009 and 2013, respectively.
The complaint is based on the Forest Service’s violations of the Forest Service Organic Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act. The tribes are asking the Court to reverse the Forest Service’s decision and enjoin construction of the mine.
“This mine will have devastating impacts on sacred lands long used by the tribes for prayer, ceremonies, and to connect with their past and their ancestors,” said Heidi McIntosh, a manaing attorney with Earthjustice. “The Forest Service should have rejected Hudbay's request to use these sacred lands as a dumping ground for toxic waste rock, mine tailings, and processing plants. Instead, the Forest Service bowed to the mining company, and then denied it had the authority to protect this uniquely important place. We're asking the Court to right this injustice.” See legal documents & more.
Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice have filed a lawsuit to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to turn over communications between EPA and interest groups related to the anticipated gutting of pesticide safeguards that protect farmworkers, families, and communities from toxic chemicals.
The lawsuit demands the release of documents reflecting communications between EPA and representatives of the agricultural and chemical industries that occurred after the Trump administration took office, as well as notes from a meeting of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Program’s Federal Advisory Committee that preceded EPA’s decision to revisit crucial protections in the federal Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) and the Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule (CPA Rule).
Last December, Trump’s EPA signaled it would review recent improvements to the these two safeguards, particularly updates that prohibit employers from requiring children to work with pesticides, provide farmworkers with better access to information about the pesticides to which they are exposed, and protect untrained workers from direct exposure to pesticides. Farmworker and public health organizations expect EPA to officially propose gutting these safeguards later this year.
Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to EPA for the records in late December, days after EPA announced its intention to revisit these protections. The request went unanswered. Now, these groups are asking the court to order EPA to provide the documents within 20 business days.
“The Agricultural Worker Protection Standard and Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule are tremendously important safeguards that will protect 2.5 million farmworkers, nearly one million pesticide applicators, and countless families from pesticide exposure. Yet EPA is planning to gut them,” said Carrie Apfel, staff attorney for Sustainable Food & Farming Program at Earthjustice. “Farmworkers and their families have a right to know who EPA met with and what was discussed leading up to this terrible decision.” Learn why these safeguards are important.
On Feb. 28, President Trump signed an executive order ordering the EPA to dismantle the Clean Water Rule. The EPA is encouraged to replace it with the weakest possible rule that would leave 60% of nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands without strong federal protection against toxic pollution. The Clean Water Rule was built on years of public engagement and scientific research.
On Jun. 27, Administrator Pruitt signaled his intention to replace the Clean Water Rule with a much weaker option designed to open the flood gates of pollution and hinder much needed protections for years to come.
On Jan. 31, 2018, EPA announced a final decision attempting to delay the Clean Water Rule to 2020. The action gives the agency some time as it works to weaken and do away with this important safeguard. Earthjustice represents Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Sierra Club in litigation pushing back—hard—against polluters and fighting to strengthen the protections of the Clean Water Rule.
On Apr. 6, on behalf of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, and Idaho Conservation League, Earthjustice filed motions to reopen and amend its temporarily closed Clean Water Rule litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. We originally filed this lawsuit in 2015, challenging specific portions of the Clean Water Rule that would have the effect of reducing protections for certain waters in the U.S. The case has been closed pending the decisions in the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court about which courts have jurisdiction to decide claims against the Clean Water Rule. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that district courts are the proper place for claims against the Clean Water Rule, we’re seeking permission to reopen our litigation in district court.
We’re also asking the court for permission to amend our complaint in this case to add claims that EPA’s new Delay Rule, which would entirely suspend the entire Clean Water Rule for two years, is unlawful. We’re challenging the Delay Rule because it withdraws important protections for streams and rivers under the Clean Water Rule for two years, without any valid legal or scientific justification. Although several specific provisions in the Clean Water Rule are deeply flawed and threaten to harm waters (and we have challenged those harmful provisions), the Clean Water Rule also reaffirmed longstanding federal protections for many of our nation’s waters.
The real goal of the Delay Rule is to buy time so the Pruitt administration can scrap this important Rule entirely and replace it with a rule that is far less protective. That is contrary to the extensive scientific studies that support the rule, and it violates Clean Water Act and crucial procedural requirements.
Our groups have committed to vigorously defending the Clean Water Rule’s basic protections from polluter attacks. For the same reason, we are challenging this unlawful attempt to delay the Clean Water Rule. See legal documents & more.
Since it was enacted in 1990, the Clean Air Act has required all “major” sources of hazardous air pollutants to reduce their hazardous emissions by the maximum achievable amount. Virtually every major industry—chemical plants, refineries, lead smelters, paper mills, etc.—has been meeting these requirements for years.
An action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a 4-page memorandum rushed out without notice or opportunity for public comment, or analysis of air pollution and public health impacts, will change all that. Breaking with decades of precedent, the EPA has vastly expanded a loophole that allows major industrial polluters to turn off their pollution control equipment and pump tons of additional lead, chromium and other hazardous air pollutants into surrounding neighborhoods.
Under EPA’s new rule, thousands of major polluters across the country will be able to turn down, turn off, or disconnect their pollution controls and double, triple, or even quadruple their toxic emissions. They will also no longer have to monitor their emissions or accurately report them.
On behalf of public health and environmental groups, Earthjustice filed a federal lawsuit on Mar. 26 to protect communities against this risk of a new tidal wave of toxic pollution. Earthjustice is representing, California Communities Against Toxics, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Ohio Citizen Action, The Environmental Integrity Project and Sierra Club. The Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council are also joining the suit.
“EPA’s action is dangerous and shameful,” said Patrice Simms, Earthjustice Vice President of Litigation. “People from overburdened communities need better protection from hazardous air pollution, instead the Trump Administration is trying to take away what protection they have.” See legal documents & more.
First enacted in 1974, the Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule ensures those who handle the most dangerous pesticides are properly trained and certified before they apply them. New commonsense protections—which have now been delayed until May 2018—require pesticide applicators to be at least 18-years-old and improve the quality of training materials. The updated CPA rule also says applicators must be able to read and write, and increases the frequency of applicator safety trainings.
When the EPA adopted the rule, it pointed to multiple tragic incidents where children died or were seriously injured when poorly trained applicators misused highly toxic pesticides. The rule was scheduled to go into effect March 6. On May 11, the EPA announced it was delaying for a year implementation of the protections. The EPA offered the public a mere 4 days to comment on this health-threatening delay.
Farmworker and health organizations, represented by Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice, filed suit on Jun. 14 against the EPA for the delay. The lawsuit, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, was filed on behalf of Farmworker Association of Florida, United Farm Workers, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and Pesticide Action Network North America.
On Mar. 21, the court ruled that the EPA illegally delayed implementation of the protections. In its ruling, the court noted that before the delay, the EPA made numerous findings of the inadequacy of the old regulations as they relate to RUPs ("restricted use pesticides"), as well as the threat RUPs posed to people, particularly farmworkers. The judge also sent a strong message to the EPA by rejecting all the agency's delays for failing to properly notify the public, and allow for comments. The court declared the original March 6, 2017, date as the effective date, making its ruling effective immediately.
“This ruling puts EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on notice that the courts are going to be scrutinizing any rule that reduces health protections for farmworkers,” said Earthustice Managing Attorney Stacey Geis. “This delay jeopardizes everyone’s health and safety.” See legal documents & more.
President Trump’s April 28 executive order exceeds his constitutional and statutory authority and violates federal law. Responding to a national groundswell of opposition to expanded offshore drilling, President Obama permanently ended oil and gas leasing in most of the Arctic Ocean and key parts of the Atlantic Ocean in December, using his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Until Trump, no president has ever tried to reverse a permanent withdrawal made under OCSLA, which does not authorize such a reversal.
Trump’s executive order could open up more than 120 million acres of ocean territory to the oil and gas industry, affecting 98 percent of federal Arctic Ocean waters and 31 biologically rich deepwater canyons in the Atlantic Ocean. Offshore drilling in these undeveloped regions threatens to harm irreplaceable wildlife, sensitive marine ecosystems, coastal residents and the businesses that depend on them, and our global climate.
On May 3, 2017, coalition of conservation and Alaska Native groups sued Trump over his attempt to jettison the permanent ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. A federal district court in Alaska on Mar. 19 rebuffed efforts by the administration and the oil industry to dismiss the case, rejecting arguments that public-interest advocates were barred from challenging the decision. The court is now set to determine whether Trump broke the law in trying to undo permanent protections established for the Arctic and Atlantic under President Obama.
“President Trump tried to shut the courthouse door,” said Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe. “But the court’s order keeps the door open and affirms that we are a country of laws; the President gets no exception.” See legal documents & more.
Formaldehyde gas, a carcinogen that also causes or exacerbates respiratory ailments, can be released from wood products, including materials used in inexpensive furniture and emergency housing. As mandated by Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set limits on the amounts of hazardous formaldehyde gas that can be released from various types of manufactured wood products made and sold in the United States, including materials used in cabinets, flooring and furniture and in emergency housing and travel trailers. Under the rule finalized in 2016, wood products had to comply with the limits in December 2017.
However, the Scott Pruitt-led extended compliance deadlines for the Formaldehyde Emissions Standards until Dec. 12, 2018. It is critical that the EPA no longer be allowed to drag its feet and continue to allow the use of dangerous wood products that harm our health.
“We believe that many of us have had harms to our health due to living in FEMA trailers after Hurricane Katrina, including my own mother’s suffering from COPD,” said Debra Campbell of A Community Voice. “We need more regulation of toxins, not less.” The New Orleans-based group A Community Voice and the Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit challenging the delay. The case was filed October 31, 2017, in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California heard arguments in this case on Jan. 12, 2018.
On Feb. 16, the court ruled that the EPA illegally delayed the protections. Judge Jeffrey White found “the Delay Rule is beyond the scope of the EPA’s authority and is not in accordance with the Formaldehyde Act,” which required the formaldehyde limits. The delay “fails to satisfy the stated purpose of the Act,” which he described as “the expeditious implementation of emission standards designed to protect both the public health of vulnerable populations” and domestic manufacturers who are, in large part, meeting the formaldehyde limits from imported goods that are not.
The decision is especially good news for the many Gulf Coast residents who, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, were provided emergency shelter by FEMA in mobile homes and travel trailers that ended up causing serious health problems added to the dislocation from the storms.
On Mar. 13, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White issued an order mandating compliance with the formaldehyde limits by all newly manufactured or imported wood products by June 1. The court order setting the compliance deadline also levels the competitive playing field for many U.S.-based manufacturers of wood products and the consumer goods made with them. These domestic companies already have reduced formaldehyde emissions to the levels mandated by Congress, but often, they have been undercut by foreign products that don’t meet the same safety standards. As of June 1, 2018, imported wood products will be held to the same emissions standards. See legal documents & more.
The air is easier to breathe today due to the protections provided by the Clean Air Act. But there are still over 140 million Americans living with areas that have dangerous levels of ozone pollution. Sometimes called smog, ozone is a highly irritating gas found to shorten lives and worsen asthma and other lung diseases. Earthjustice, in a series of court actions over more than a decade, has worked for stronger protections against ozone pollution.
The EPA itself estimates that, when communities meet the new, more protective 2015 health standard for ozone, it will save hundreds of lives, prevent 230,000 asthma attacks in children, and prevent 160,000 missed school days for kids each year. On Jun. 7, the EPA announced it was delaying identifying the areas that must clean up their air because they violate the 2015 smog standard. This would mean polluters would escape the effective pollution controls the Clean Air Act requires.
Public health and environmental organizations, represented by Earthjustice, sued the EPA on July 12, and asked the D.C. Circuit Court to immediately strike down or block the delay. The EPA’s withdrawal of the delay on Aug. 14 came the evening before its response to the lawsuit was due, and reinstated an Oct. 1, 2017, deadline to begin implementing the 2015 health standard for ozone.
Despite this legal deadline, the EPA showed no sign of obeying the law. As a result, a "notice of intent" letter was sent on Oct. 4 to the EPA, warning that legal action will be taken in 60 days to force EPA to do its job. On Dec. 4, Earthjustice filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. On Mar. 12, the court ordered EPA to take the next step by promulgating official identifications of most areas with smog levels violating the 2015 ozone health standard by April 30, 2018. Rejecting EPA’s request for extra time, the court also ordered EPA to finish the job by determining whether the San Antonio area violates the ozone standard by July 17.
Earthjustice is representing the American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, American Thoracic Society, Appalachian Mountain Club, National Parks Conservation Association, National Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and West Harlem Environmental Action, are fighting alongside our partners, the Environmental Defense Fund and Environmental Law and Policy Center.
"EPA’s delay flouts the rule of law," said Earthjustice attorney Seth Johnson. "It’s illegal and wrong. It forces the most vulnerable people, like children, people with asthma and the elderly, to continue to suffer from dangerous ozone pollution. The EPA is wrong to put its polluter friends’ profits before people’s health." See legal documents & more.
Representing the interests of the millions of people who use, visit, study and rely on the Atchafalaya Great River Swamp, several groups—Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association (West), Gulf Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club and their lawyers at Earthjustice—are asking a Louisiana federal district court to vacate the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would allow the controversial Bayou Bridge pipeline to be constructed through the Atchafalaya Basin, one of the nation’s ecological crown jewels, and through hundreds of Louisiana’s streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and bayous.
The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 11, claims that the 162-mile pipeline would pose a serious threat, with risks of oil spills into wetlands, rivers and lakes; as well as the potential for permanent destruction of invaluable cypress and tupelo river swamps. On Jan. 30, the groups asked a Louisiana federal court for an injunction on pipeline construction in the Atchafalaya River Basin, seeking an immediate halt to the controversial Bayou Bridge pipeline.
The pipeline project proposes to connect the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, which transports volatile and explosive Bakken crude oil from North Dakota, to refineries in St. James Parish and export terminals, forming the southern leg of the Bakken Pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners owns both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline.
“Energy Transfer Partners wants to bring its toxic mix of incompetence and greed to one of the nation’s crown jewel landscapes—the Atchafalaya Basin,” says Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice attorney for the plaintiffs. “The Corps’ refusal to look closely at the risks of this project is not just short-sighted, it’s illegal.”
On Feb. 23, a federal judge in Louisiana issued an order blocking any further work on the Bayou Bridge pipeline. See legal documents & more.
Conservation Law Foundation and co-counsel Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on Feb. 8 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to force federal regulators to comply with their legal responsibility to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale population.
Amidst existing threats from climate change, increasing shipping traffic, and a rapidly changing ecosystem, North Atlantic right whales also experienced an “unusual mortality event” last year, leaving 17 right whales dead. With fewer than 460 total whales left, even one death is a catastrophe. A female of reproductive age died in the week prior to the lawsuit being filed.
The Trump Administration’s plans for a dramatic and reckless increase in oil and gas drilling in the Western Arctic would threaten core wildlife values and accelerate the impacts of global climate change, at a time when a transition to clean energy alternatives is urgently needed.
Earthjustice, on behalf of Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage on Feb. 2 challenging federal lease sales that pave the way for expanded oil and gas drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The Indiana-sized, largely wild and undeveloped territory is globally regarded as an ecological treasure. Iconic Arctic species such as grizzly bears, musk oxen, caribou, and millions of migratory birds rely upon Reserve lands for survival. Its coasts provide refuge for Pacific walruses and ice seals and designated critical habitat for threatened polar bears.
The complaint targets recent oil and gas lease sales held by Bureau of Land Management.
Although the agency put more Reserve land tracts on the auction block last year than ever before—doubling the size of any Reserve lease sale in a decade—it failed to consider the far-reaching climate impacts that could be triggered by this wave of oil and gas development.
BLM completely ignored the effects of greenhouse gas emissions that will accumulate once Reserve fossil fuels are extracted and burned. The National Environmental Policy Act requires BLM to analyze these foreseeable climate impacts and their serious implications for future generations.
The lawsuit also challenges the failure of the agency to meet its obligation under NEPA to consider leasing fewer and less sensitive areas with potential lower impacts to the wildlife and other public values of the Western Arctic.
“Increasing oil development in the Western Arctic will contribute to climate change, threaten special areas, and put further pressure on subsistence users,” said Earthjustice attorney Rebecca Noblin. See legal documents & more.
Earthjustice, representing the Sierra Club, filed a lawsuit on Feb. 2 to compel the agency to comply with public records laws after extensive delays in providing the public with information it is legally entitled to.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, demands the release of any documents related to unprecedented changes surrounding Freedom of Information Act requests under EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The suit comes in the wake of concerns and evidence that, under Pruitt, significant efforts are being made at the EPA to interfere with the public’s access to information from the agency.
Earthjustice submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the EPA seeking these records on June 22, 2017, and followed up with a similar FOIA request on behalf of Sierra Club on October 31, 2017. To date, EPA has not released any records in response to either request, nor given any indication of when it will do so. This delay violates the clear legal deadline for an agency response.
The FOIA requests in the lawsuit seek information on EPA’s increasingly aggressive tactics to delay responding to FOIA requests.
In addition to introducing more delays into an already slow process, these tactics raise concerns of improper political influence in the legal procedures that govern what information EPA chooses to release to the public.
“The information we are seeking is critically important to ensuring transparency at EPA,” said Thom Cmar, attorney with Earthjustice.
The critically endangered Mexican gray wolf almost vanished from the face of the earth in the mid-20th century because of human persecution. The entire population of Mexican wolves alive today descends from just seven individuals that were captured and placed into a captive breeding program before the species was exterminated from the wild.
As the result of a reintroduction program, today there is a single population of approximately 113 Mexican wolves existing in the wild in the United States, located in the Blue Range area of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. However, the reintroduced population suffers from high mortality due to illegal killing and compromised genetics because of its brush with extinction.
A coalition of wolf advocates have filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s deeply flawed recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf, one of North America’s most endangered mammals.
The lawsuit challenges the plan because it disregards the best available science in setting inadequate population goals, cuts off wolf access to vital recovery habitat, and fails to respond to mounting genetic threats to the species.
The Trump administration issued the long-awaited recovery plan in November 2017. The plan ignored comments submitted by tens of thousands of people—including leading wolf scientists—who challenged the quality of the science used and asked for stronger protections and more aggressive recovery efforts. The best available science indicates Mexican wolf recovery requires at least three connected populations totaling approximately 750 individuals; a carefully managed reintroduction effort that prioritizes improving the genetic health of the animals; and establishment of at least two additional population centers in the southern Rockies and the Grand Canyon region.
In 2014, Earthjustice—on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, retired Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David R. Parsons, the Endangered Wolf Center and the Wolf Conservation Center—filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to develop a recovery plan. A settlement of that lawsuit led to issuance of the Mexican wolf recovery plan that the same plaintiffs are now challenging. The plaintiffs are asking a federal judge to order the government to develop a Mexican wolf recovery plan that legitimately responds to recovery needs for the species as the law requires
“Mexican wolves urgently need more room to roam, protection from killing, and more releases of wolves into the wild to improve genetic diversity, but the Mexican wolf recovery plan provides none of these things,” said Earthjustice attorney Elizabeth Forsyth, who is representing the wolf advocates. “The wolves will face an ongoing threat to their survival unless major changes are made.” See legal documents & more.
EPA wants to dismantle the Clean Power Plan—and sought to put court challenges on hold while it does so. Earthjustice is pushing back in court. On May 15, Earthjustice—part of a coalition of public health and environmental groups—filed briefs in the D.C. Circuit, urging the court to move forward and decide lawsuits challenging the Clean Power Plan.
On Oct. 10, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took the first step toward reversing the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan sets the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing fossil-fuel-fired electric power plants. These plants emit a third of our nation's carbon pollution—more than the next ten kinds of stationary sources combined.
On Jan. 29, Earthjustice joined with other groups in calling upon the EPA to withdraw its proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan, because the proposal reflects the improper involvement of Administrator Pruitt. A similar request was made Jan. 9 by a coalition of state and local governments.
On Jul. 25, three days before oral arguments were scheduled in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Bureau of Land Management safety measures to regulate fracking operations on public lands, the Interior Department moved ahead with its plan to rescind the 2015 rule.
The protections call for drillers to disclose what chemicals are used in fracking fluids and to perform tests on the integrity of the wells before drilling can begin. It was the first time the rules had been updated since the 1980s. The rule, which was the product of nearly five years of agency work, expert input, public comments and hearings, never went into effect after it was challenged immediately by oil and gas industry trade associations. After a district court judge set aside the rule in 2016, BLM and citizen groups appealed to the 10th Circuit.
On Sept. 21, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver vacated the lower court ruling which meant the protections would take effect. However, on Dec. 27, the court stayed its mandate until Jan. 12, 2018—and on Dec. 28, BLM announced its final repeal of the fracking rule.
Represented by Earthjustice, a coalition of environmental and tribal groups—including the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, Earthworks, Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, and Western Resource Advocates—filed a lawsuit on Jan. 24 asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to declare the repeal in violation of several federal laws, including the Administrative Procedure Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the Mineral Leasing Act, the Indian Mineral Leasing Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The suit also asks that the court reinstate the 2015 Hydraulic Fracturing Rule.
“This is another case of the Trump administration putting our public lands and water at risk to pad the bottom line of the oil and gas industry,” said Michael Freeman, staff attorney for Earthjustice who is represented the groups. “The agency has abdicated its responsibility under federal law to manage these lands for the good of the public, not just for fracking companies. We’re filing this case to force BLM to do its job.”
Earthjustice represented the Sierra Club, Earthworks, Western Resource Advocates, The Wilderness Society, Conservation Colorado Education Fund, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. See legal documents & more.
On Jun. 19, political appointees at the Department of Commerce re-opened the private angler red snapper recreational fishing season in the Gulf of Mexico. This action added an additional 39 days of fishing on to the previously announced 3-day season.
In the Federal Register announcement of the decision, the Department of Commerce stated, “the approach will necessarily mean that the private recreational sector will substantially exceed its annual catch limit, which was designed to prevent overfishing the stock.” The notice further states that, “this approach may delay the ultimate rebuilding of the stock by as many as six years.”
The Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the law that manages our nation’s fisheries, requires science-based annual catch limits, set at levels that prevent overfishing, and that vulnerable fish populations be rebuilt to healthy levels in as short a time as possible. “You wouldn't tell a person who's almost out of bankruptcy to go on a spending spree,” said Andrea Treece, an attorney with Earthjustice. “It's equally irresponsible—and illegal—for the department to ignore the very conservation measures that are bringing red snapper back. Earthjustice will make sure that this reckless approach to managing our nation's valuable ocean resources does not happen again, in the Gulf or anywhere else.”
On Dec. 20, 2017, the federal district court for the District of Columbia issued a stay in the lawsuit against the Department of Commerce, NOAA and NMFS for its decision to illegally extend the 2017 private recreational red snapper fishing season in the Gulf of Mexico. The Department of Commerce effectively conceded the illegality of its actions by failing to defend the case on the merits. The decision by the judge to maintain jurisdiction over the recreational red snapper season for 2018 is an important step in ensuring that future management decisions are focused on sustainability and accountability, for the benefit of both the fish and fishermen.
On Jan. 23, Earthjustice and Ocean Conservancy filed a lawsuit in Maryland District Court against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service for the agency’s failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act. The FOIA request was filed in order to get a full picture of how the extraordinary decision to reopen the private recreational red snapper fishing season was made.See legal documents & more.
The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Tribe asserts that the agencies have failed to take primary responsibility for a wetland permit that is key to the future of the controversial Back Forty Mine proposal.
This permit, if approved, would allow mine developer Aquila Resources, Inc., to fill and excavate Menominee River wetlands, as part of its plans to construct a large, open-pit mine and industrial minerals-processing facility on a site that borders the Menominee River.
The site is located within an expansive Menominee cultural landscape that includes tribal burial grounds, ancient agricultural sites and ceremonial sites of significance to the Menominee Tribe, some of which have already been deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
For months, the Tribe has opposed the federal agencies’ decision to allow the State of Michigan to oversee the Clean Water Act federal permitting process, pointing out that permitting fill and excavation on the Menominee River and its wetlands cannot be delegated to a state under the Act.
“This permit affects the interests of so many people and the environment in Wisconsin and Michigan, including sites critical to the Tribe’s culture and history,” said Menominee Tribal Chairman Gary Besaw. "Therefore, it is important that this process follow the Clean Water Act and not solely be controlled by the State of Michigan." The Tribe is represented by Earthjustice. See legal documents & more.
A fast-tracked plan by the Department of Energy sought to prop up the dirtiest, oldest coal-fired power plants by providing special subsidies to keep them running. DOE gave the public less than three weeks to comment on a plan that gravely threatened public health and the power grid.
Earthjustice, along with eleven other environmental organizations, filed technical comments on Oct. 23 showing that the plan is illegal and unjustified. Earthjustice stands ready to challenge it in court if it moves forward.
“The public should not have to pay for more asthma and power outages,” said Kim Smaczniak, Clean Energy Staff Attorney at Earthjustice, “But that’s exactly what DOE’s plan would do.”
On Jan. 8, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected the DOE's proposal in a 5–0 decision. FERC concluded that the proposal did not satisfy the “clear and fundamental legal requirements” of section 206 of the Federal Power Act. The concurring decision also noted that, “In effect, [the proposed rulemaking] sought to freeze yesterday’s resources in place indefinitely, rather than adapting resilience to the resources that the market is selecting today or toward which it is trending in the future.”
Since 1975, Yellowstone-area grizzly bears have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The grizzly population has faced the loss of two of its most important food sources in the Yellowstone region—whitebark pine seeds and cutthroat trout—due to changing environmental conditions driven in part by a warming climate.
Nevertheless, the Fish and Wildlife Service in June 2017 finalized a decision to remove the Yellowstone grizzly population from the threatened species list, claiming that the bear population is recovered.
Earthjustice has worked for decades to safeguard the grizzlies from habitat destruction, excessive killing and other threats. The agency previously attempted to delist the Yellowstone grizzly population in 2007, claiming the bears no longer needed protection. But the agency's decision was rejected by a federal district court in Montana along with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on the basis that the agency ignored the impacts of the whitebark pine loss on the grizzly population.
On Aug. 30, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit challenging the attempt to prematurely strip the grizzlies of their protections. The agency's decision enables the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming to move ahead with plans for trophy hunting of grizzlies. “With grizzly deaths spiking, now is not the time to declare the great bear recovered and federal protections unnecessary,” said Timothy Preso, managing attorney of Earthjustice's Northern Rockies Office. “We should not be taking a gamble with the grizzly’s future.”
On Jan. 8, Earthjustice filed a request for summary judgment to invalidate the Yellowstone grizzly delisting rule, citing the Dec. 2017 reopening of public comment on the rule as evidence the government did not complete its homework before removing important protections for this population of bears and opening the door to recreational trophy hunting of the iconic grizzly. Despite reopening the decision for comment, the agency left the removal of Yellowstone grizzlies from the endangered species list in effect. See legal documents & more.
A coalition of doctors, scientists, and professional groups have filed a lawsuit challenging EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s attempt to remove highly qualified, independent scientists from advisory committees that ensure the integrity of science at the agency.
The parties to the suit are Physicians for Social Responsibility, National Hispanic Medical Association, and the International Society for Children’s Health and Environment, on behalf of their members, and Professor Edward Avol, represented by Earthjustice, together with independent scientists Dr. Robyn Wilson and Dr. Joseph Arvai, represented by the Columbia Environmental Law Clinic, Morningside Heights Legal Services at Columbia Law School.
EPA advisory committees provide crucial scientific and technical information to inform EPA decisions and review the scientific accuracy of EPA findings across a wide range of agency programs. Under a new policy, Pruitt is removing publicly funded scientists from the committees and replacing them with advocates for the polluting industries EPA is charged with regulating.
Pruitt’s chosen replacements appear handpicked to put the interests of polluting industries ahead of sound science, public health, and the environment. Virtually all of them have financial connections to polluting industries, hold pro-pollution views that are outside the scientific mainstream, or both.
One of Pruitt’s appointees to the Science Advisory Board, Robert Phalen, claims that air pollution is good for children and that “modern air is a little too clean for optimum health.” Michael Honeycutt, another Pruitt appointee, denies the overwhelming scientific evidence that smog causes asthma and has suggested that more smog would be a “health benefit.” As a regulator in Texas, he has opposed stricter limits on mercury and arsenic releases, and actually weakened state protections for benzene, a widespread and extremely potent carcinogen. Honeycutt will now chair the Science Advisory Board.
The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia explains that Pruitt’s new policy is an illegal attempt to override federal ethics rules and that it is arbitrarily biased in favor of polluting industries. If it’s allowed to remain in effect, the policy will undermine the integrity of EPA science and introduce pro-polluter bias into agency decisions and programs.
The complaint asks the Court to declare the policy unlawful and arbitrary and throw it out. It also asks the Court to prohibit EPA from removing any more scientists under the policy and direct EPA to reinstate the scientists who were disqualified.
The publicly funded scientists being removed by Pruitt are experts and leaders in their fields of study, including cancer, children’s health, asthma and other respiratory diseases, epidemiology, the hazards posed by chemicals in the home, and risk analysis and decision science. Over several years of distinguished service, they have helped ensure that EPA makes decisions based on scientific merit and not on politics.
Coal plants in Texas emit the most visibility-impairing, lung-damaging sulfur dioxide pollution in the nation. All told, these facilities are estimated to cause more than 677 deaths and thousands of asthma-related events and hospitalizations each year, with public health costs totaling more than $6.7 billion.
In 2016, EPA proposed a strong plan to clean up dangerous pollutants from more than a dozen Texas coal plants and other polluting facilities. The Texas Haze Plan was intended to reduce haze in 15 national parks and wilderness areas across the south central United States, including the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, the Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks in Texas, and other areas.
By Oct. 2017, Administrator Pruitt’s EPA abandoned the proposal, instead putting forward a plan that grants polluters a license to emit even more pollution into the air despite vocal opposition.
On Dec. 15, a group of clean air and parks conservation advocacy groups, represented by Earthjustice and Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program, filed a lawsuit in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, along with a petition for reconsideration to EPA, asserting that EPA’s Texas Regional Haze plan is unlawful and will do little to actually clean up pollution from Texas’ coal plants as it was originally intended to do. The challenge comes after a decade of deadlines missed by EPA and the state of Texas to establish a plan to reduce pollution from the state’s coal-fired power plants.
“Instead of protecting clean air and people’s health, the agency has issued a plan that would allow more pollution, not less,” said Earthjusticeattorney Michael Soules. "That’s why we are going to court to fight this." See legal documents & more.
Three days after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation taking an axe to Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah, conservation organizations filed a lawsuit attacking the order as an abuse of the president’s power.
Following in the footsteps of the Native American Tribes who sued the President on Dec. 4, Earthjustice is representing nine conservation organizations in a suit charging that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act and the U.S. Constitution by eviscerating the monument.
The unprecedented act leaves rare archaeological sites and stunning wildlands without protection from looting, prospecting, oil and gas drilling, uranium mining, or off-road vehicle damage. Bears Ears was decimated by more than 1 million acres.
“Nearly three million Americans voiced their support for national monuments during Trump’s monument review, but he chose to ignore both the American people and the letter of the law to cater to the extractive industries who would gut our natural wonders,” said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney in Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain office. “We stand with Native American Tribes to defend Bears Ears National Monument from this outrageous attack.”
Earthjustice represents nine groups challenging President Trump’s unlawful action: The Wilderness Society, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Sierra Club, the Grand Canyon Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, and the Center for Biological Diversity. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are co-plaintiffs in the case, represented by counsel from those organizations. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are co-plaintiffs in the case, represented by counsel from those organizations.
Hours after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation taking an axe to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, conservation organizations filed a lawsuit attacking the order as an abuse of the president’s power.
Earthjustice is representing eight organizations in a suit charging that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act by stripping monument protections from this national treasure: The Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit and represented by in-house counsel.
“President Trump has perpetrated a terrible violation of America’s public lands and heritage by going after this dinosaur treasure trove,” said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney in Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountains office. “While past presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect unique lands and cultural sites in America, Trump is instead mangling the law, opening this national monument to coal mining instead of protecting its scientific, historic, and wild heritage. We will not let this stand.”
Conservation and health-safety groups have filed suit in federal court challenging the Trump administration’s approval of an enormous groundwater-mining and pipeline project in Southern California. The Cadiz water project, approved without environmental review, includes the construction of a pipeline through the Mojave Trails National Monument and other public lands in the area.
The lawsuit notes that the Trump administration reversed two Obama administration decisions and wrongly concluded that the Cadiz project’s 43-mile pipeline did not require any federal Bureau of Land Management permits or approvals. If allowed to move forward, the Cadiz water-mining project would drain life-giving springs in the Mojave Trails National Monument and surrounding public lands.
Hydrologists from the U.S. Geological Survey determined that the Cadiz project is unsustainable and that the company’s privately funded study vastly overstates the aquifer’s recharge rate. The project’s approval followed the appointment of David Bernhardt, a deputy Interior Department secretary and former lobbyist for Cadiz.
“Cadiz, Inc. is just another corporation looking to profit by selling off an irreplaceable public resource,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney at Earthjustice who is representing the groups filing suit. “The Trump administration would love to give Cadiz a free pass around our environmental laws, but we’re not going to let that happen.” See legal documents & more.
For decades, coal ash has polluted our waters and our communities. Coal ash, the toxic remains of coal burning in power plants, is full of chemicals that cause cancer, developmental disorders and reproductive problems.
After Earthjustice's long court battle to get the first-ever federal safeguards on coal ash dumps, these hard-won protections are now endangered. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is now considering a petition filed by polluters that would pull back the protections outlined in a legal settlement Earthjustice won in 2014 on behalf of ten public interest groups and the Moapa Band of Paiutes.
Critical groundwater monitoring and cleanup requirements were scheduled to go into effect Oct. 17, 2017. “This decision is a galling giveaway to industrial polluters, even by this administration’s standards of pandering to industry at the expense of the public,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans. Oral argument in the D.C. Circuit Court originally scheduled for October was held on Nov. 20, 2017.
“The EPA is sending a crystal-clear message to families across the country: our job is to protect wealthy polluters, not you and your children. These toxic dumps should have been cleaned up decades ago. Americans will not stand idly by as the EPA puts their health and safety at risk—and neither will Earthjustice or our partners. We will fight for these critical safeguards.” See legal documents & more.
President Trump’s “America First Offshore Energy Executive Order” issued on April 28 directed the Department of Commerce to review the designations and expansions of 11 national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments.
The consequences of rolling back protections for these areas would be devastating. For example, it could open the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument to oil and gas drilling, commercial fishing, deep seabed mining and other commercial exploitation. And it could open 2,278,400 acres of California’s marine sanctuaries to offshore oil drilling.
On Jun. 26, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries together with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a notice in the Federal Register requesting public comments to inform their review of National Marine Sanctuaries. During the public comment period that followed, the agency received more than 100,000 comments. Earthjustice filed technical comments with 45 organizations.
On Nov. 15, Earthjustice filed a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the Commerce Department's review. A response is expected within 20 working days.
For months, federal agencies have repeatedly failed to answer the public’s Freedom of Information Act requests for information related to the Trump administration’s ongoing review of national monuments. On Nov. 2, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against federal agencies on behalf of six organizations whose requests for information on national monuments have been met with radio silence.
Earthjustice is already in court to protect two national monuments—Cascade-Siskiyou and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts—from industry lawsuits and is also working on Capitol Hill to defend these public lands from attacks by Congress.
"President Trump is looking for ways to gut monuments and weaken the Antiquities Act, the nation’s century-old public lands law protecting some of our most cherished landscapes and heritage," said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney at Earthjustice. "Earthjustice stands ready to defend the Antiquities Act and the national monuments protected under the law." See legal documents & more.
The Arctic Refuge is home to hundreds of species that depend on its unique wilderness characteristics, including wolves, polar bears, caribou, and migratory birds from all fifty states. The Refuge has sustained the Gwich’in people, who call it “the sacred place where life begins,” for thousands of years.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's order calls for renewed study of the oil and gas potential of the 1.5 million acre Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The majority of Americans want the Coastal Plain permanently protected.
“For the past 30 years, Congress has chosen to side with the vast majority of the American people who want to protect the Arctic Refuge,” said Marissa Knodel, Earthjustice Associate Legislative Counsel. “They should do so again. We cannot and should not play politics with our national heritage just to line the pockets of the oil and gas industry.” See legal documents & more.
At least one in three schoolchildren in America attends a school within the vulnerability zone of a hazardous facility. The Chemical Disaster Rule would facilitate coordination with local first responders, such as firefighters, to ensure accidents are thoroughly investigated, and chemical facilities in the industries with the worst accident records consider implementing all available options to improve safety.
But although the EPA finalized this commonsense rule, after years of sustained advocacy and a series of high-profile chemical disasters, the Scott Pruitt-led EPA has now delayed its implementation for an additional 20 months. Without adequate protections, preventable tragedies will continue to occur.
Earthjustice is in court to challenge the illegal delay of these protections and filed our opening brief on Oct. 25. We are representing the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, Coalition For A Safe Environment (Wilmington, CA), Del Amo Action Committee (Torrance, CA), California Communities Against Toxics, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Air Alliance Houston, Community In-Power & Development Association (Port Arthur, TX), Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Clean Air Council (Philadelphia, PA), Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (West Virginia). See legal documents & more.
An hour after meeting with the corporation seeking to build Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt set in motion plans to withdraw proposed protections for the bay.
Pruitt's decision ignored years of peer-reviewed, scientific study and overwhelming community opposition to the open-pit copper and gold Pebble Mine. Bristol Bay is home to some of the world's last great salmon runs—and could be destroyed by Pebble Mine. Earthjustice is committed to representing those who oppose unlawful and ill-advised mining in the vast expanse of Alaska and British Columbia. See legal documents & more.
For half a century, U.S. staple foods such as corn, wheat, apples and citrus have been sprayed with chlorpyrifos, a dangerous pesticide that can damage the developing brains of children, causing reduced IQ, loss of working memory and attention deficit disorders.
Earthjustice, among other groups, has for years pushed the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos. The EPA was expected to make a decision by Mar. 31, under a court order deadline. On Mar. 29, the EPA refused to ban the pesticide.
On June 6, a dozen health, labor and civil rights organizations, represented by Earthjustice, filed an administrative appeal to the EPA, urging the federal government to ban chlorpyrifos. The new appeal challenges, on its merits, the EPA’s March action that allows chlorpyrifos to continue to be used on food crops.
“EPA is refusing to ban a pesticide that harms children’s brains. It is acting contrary to the law, the science, and a court order. In a word: unconscionable,” said Patti Goldman, managing attorney at Earthjustice.
On Oct. 10, the EPA released documents in response to a FOIA request submitted by Earthjustice for communications between the agency and Dow, as well as certain trade associations. Dow Chemical is the largest producer of chlorpyrifos in the United States. See legal documents & more.
Located at the headwaters of the Colorado River and surrounded on three sides by Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake is the focal point of the multimillion-dollar tourism economy in the region. Population growth on the Front Range that requires increasing amounts of water to be pumped through the transmountain diversion system known as the Colorado-Big Thompson Project has caused degradation in water quality.
The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has begun a multi-year rulemaking process that could result in heightened water quality protections for Grand Lake. At the Oct. 10 scoping hearing, the Outstanding Grand Lake Foundation proposed the designation of Grand Lake as an “Outstanding Water” under the Clean Water Act and state law. An Outstanding Waters designation is the highest tier classification and would limit the further degradation of Grand Lake’s waters.
“Grand Lake is a one-of-a-kind Colorado treasure,” said Michael Hiatt, a staff attorney at Earthjustice. “It is imperative we fully protect Grand Lake by using all of the tools the Clean Water Act provides.”
Coal plants all over the country dump toxic chemicals into rivers, lakes, and streams that millions of Americans use for drinking water and recreation. Yet the EPA is illegally refusing to provide the public with key information on why it’s scrapping new safeguards to protect public health from water contamination.
Barely two months after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took office, the EPA abruptly issued an April 25 order to put an indefinite hold on safeguards designed to control the amount of arsenic, mercury, selenium, lead and other pollutants that spew from coal plants into our public waters. By putting those protections on hold indefinitely, the Trump administration is allowing power plants to continue discharging toxics without any specific limits, using standards set 35 years ago. Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on May 3 challenging the rollback.
On Sept. 13, the EPA announced it would make a two-year delay of those public health protections a new part of federal regulations. During that two-year period, EPA intends to review the public health protections at industry’s request to consider further delaying and weakening them.
Earthjustice filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on Sept. 28 in federal district court in Manhattan on behalf of the Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, and the Environmental Integrity Project.
“Industry’s wish list has become the EPA’s to-do list,” said Earthjustice attorney Thomas Cmar. “EPA is taking illegal steps to conceal its obvious collusion with industry. The American public has the right to know what their government is up to—especially when the decisions determine the safety of our drinking water.” See legal documents & more.
In 2014, FDA issued a rule requiring disclosure of calorie counts and other nutrition information at food retail establishments. But one day before industry was due to comply in May 2017, FDA delayed the compliance deadline for an additional year until May 2018.
Without menu labeling, it is difficult for consumers to estimate the calorie content of popular restaurant items. Menu labeling also encourages restaurants to offer more healthful menu items and portion sizes.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest and the National Consumers League, both represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the FDA’s decision. The lawsuit asserted that the delay of the menu labeling requirement—published without prior notice or an opportunity for comment, one day before the menu labeling rule was supposed to take effect—is illegal and must be vacated.
“There are monitors that can tell us exactly how many steps we take in a day and how much sleep we get at night,” said Peter Lehner, Senior Strategic Advisor, Earthjustice. “But we are denied the basic right to know how many calories are served at a restaurant.”
Earthjustice and the Department of Justice agreed to stay further proceedings in the lawsuit following an Aug. 25 statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb providing assurance that there will be no further delay and no changes to the menu labeling requirements. The agreement was approved by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan on Sept. 27. See legal documents & more.
Recognizing that extinction is irreversible, the United States did in 1973 what no country had done before, establishing a commitment to protect and restore the species that are most at risk of extinction.
The Endangered Species Act is one of the most popular and effective environmental laws ever enacted. More than four decades later, 99% of species protected under the Endangered Species Act have not perished.
Anti-environment interests in the House and Senate backed by oil and gas interests, mining companies, and other extractive industries are currently orchestrating some of the most serious threats ever posed to the Endangered Species Act.
“With scientists now warning that we have entered a wave of mass extinctions, federal protections for imperiled plants and wildlife are needed more urgently than ever before,” said Marjorie Mulhall, Earthjustice’s Legislative Director for Lands, Wildlife and Oceans. “Politicians should be finding ways to strengthen the Endangered Species Act, not render it toothless.” Learn more.
In 2016, Congress overhauled the Toxic Substances Control Act for the first time in 40 years, requiring EPA to conduct comprehensive risk evaluations of chemicals without regard to cost, and with special attention to the risks posed to vulnerable populations. For more than six years, Earthjustice and our clients have fought for TSCA reform to ensure the EPA adequately protects the public and environment from harmful chemicals.
Earthjustice has brought two lawsuits, specifically challenging two EPA regulations that set ground-rules for how EPA will prioritize chemicals for safety review and then evaluate the risks of those chemicals under the updated Toxic Substances Control Act. The challenged rules will play a crucial role in whether EPA fulfills its mission of protecting families and workers across the country from chemical risks or allows known bad actor chemicals, like asbestos, to get a free pass.
Earthjustice filed the complaint in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Learning Disabilities Association of America, United Steelworkers, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Health Strategy Center, Environmental Working Group, and Sierra Club.
“After Congress took bipartisan action to make desperately needed updates to our chemical safety laws, the Trump administration has turned back the clock, leaving families and workers at risk,” said Eve Gartner, an attorney at Earthjustice. “The EPA’s newly adopted rules—overseen by a former high-level chemical industry official with head-spinning conflicts of interest—will leave children, communities and workers vulnerable to dangerous chemicals. This lawsuit is about one thing: holding the EPA to the letter of the law and ensuring it fulfills its mandate to protect the public.” See legal documents & more.
Imagine an underwater blast so loud that it can be heard by marine mammals that are 2,500 miles away. That’s the level of noise generated when companies fire airguns to blast the ocean floor with sound in order to find oil and gas deposits.
Such seismic testing could begin soon off the East Coast after Trump ordered federal agencies to reconsider the Obama administration’s five-year ban on offshore drilling in the Atlantic. On June 6, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed five authorizations for companies on the hunt for oil and gas. These companies want to conduct seismic surveys of the Atlantic seabed.
The noise would have serious impacts on marine mammals like whales and dolphins, which rely heavily on sound to communicate, navigate and find prey. By granting these five proposed authorizations, the National Marine Fisheries Service would allow marine mammals to become casualties of oil and gas exploration.
“At a time when our oceans are already showing the stresses of climate change,” said Steve Mashuda, a managing attorney with Earthjustice, “It just doesn't make sense to harm whales, dolphins, and other ocean wildlife in service of drilling for more oil we can't afford to burn if we're going to avoid the worst harms from climate change.” See legal documents & more.
Earthjustice—representing Sierra Club and Consumer Federation of America—joined the Natural Resources Defense Council, 11 states, and the city of New York on Jun. 13 in suing the Department of Energy for illegally stalling five energy efficiency standards that could save consumers as much as $11 billion on their energy bills. Together, the five standards would produce more than $11 billion in consumer savings while avoiding 25 million metric tons of climate pollution over 30 years.
The delayed Department of Energy standards are for portable air conditioners, uninterruptible power supplies (the battery backup systems used to keep computers and other electronic devices running when the power goes out), air compressors used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications, walk-in coolers and freezers found in grocery stores and other locations, and packaged boilers that heat one-fourth of the nation’s commercial space.
“When a broad cross-section of American families and businesses stand to benefit from a newly approved regulation, we usually don’t have to step in to ensure that regulation gets published in the Federal Register,” said Timothy Ballo, staff attorney at Earthjustice. "But these are strange times." See legal documents & more.
Dusky shark populations off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts have plummeted by at least 65% in the past two decades as a result of overfishing and bycatch. Dusky sharks grow slowly and have low reproductive rates, making them highly vulnerable to overfishing. Despite the federal government acknowledging that dusky sharks were severely depleted nearly 20 years ago, they are still being overfished today in violation of federal law.
On May 4, Oceana, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for its continued failure to end the overfishing of dusky sharks in U.S. waters and rebuild the depleted population, as required by law. The lawsuit was filed in response to a final rule the federal government issued Apr. 3 that is supposed to address its failing management of dusky sharks.
According to Oceana, the new measures will not effectively reduce and limit bycatch, the main cause of dusky shark declines. Bycatch is the capture of non-target fish and ocean wildlife. Tens of thousands of dusky sharks may have been caught as bycatch since they were officially prohibited from being targeted by fishermen in 2000, leaving their populations struggling to recover.
“In order to give dusky sharks a clear shot at recovering to a healthy population level, the Fisheries Service has to put a stop to the excessive bycatch across the multiple fisheries that snag these sharks,” said Andrea Treece, an attorney with Earthjustice, “The Fisheries Service is trying to solve the overfishing problem without addressing the primary cause.” See legal documents & more.
On Mar. 29, Earthjustice sued the Department of Interior over an order opening tens of thousands of acres of public lands to the coal industry. The pause in leasing was ordered last year by former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to allow time to review and reform the federal program to ensure protection of the climate. The program has not been significantly updated since 1979.
“Our legal system remains an important backstop against the abuses of power we’ve witnessed over the course of the past months,” said Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine. “That’s why we’re going to court to defend our public lands, clean air and water, and a healthy climate for all.” See legal documents & more.
Trump’s executive order would effectively block government agencies from issuing new health, consumer or workplace safeguards unless they repeal existing ones. Scientists and public health experts at agencies like the EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Food and Drug Administration could be forced to choose among vital protections.
The executive order also requires new rules to have a net cost of $0 this fiscal year, without taking into account the value of the benefits of public health protections. Any public health benefits—and accompanying economic gains—do not figure into this calculation. According to this line of thinking, fewer missed days of work, healthier kids and thousands of lives saved due to fewer heart attacks are not worth anything.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, names as defendants the president, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget and the current or acting secretaries and directors of more than a dozen executive departments and agencies. The complaint alleges that the agencies cannot lawfully comply with the president’s order because doing so would violate the statutes under which the agencies operate and the Administrative Procedure Act.
Oral arguments in the case were heard on Aug. 10. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are represented by lawyers at Public Citizen Litigation Group, NRDC, CWA and Earthjustice.
“When presidents overreach, it is up to the courts to remind them no one is above the law and hold them to the U.S. Constitution,” said Earthjustice Managing Attorney Patti Goldman. “This is one of those times.” See legal documents & more.
Earthjustice stands in solidarity with social justice and civil rights groups in supporting the “Build Bridges Not Walls Act” (a bill that would render the President’s Executive Order to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border ineffective), and in response to President Trump’s Jan. 25 executive actions to target immigrants and refugees and Sept. 5 decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
On Oct. 16, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive blocking settlements and consent decrees shielding the agency from protecting public health, clean air, clean water. The effect will be to give the EPA more time to delay public protections that enforce bedrock environmental laws including the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, and to discourage people from seeking justice in a court of law. “It is just another way for Pruitt’s industry friends to continue to profit off their pollution, while local communities pay the cost with their health and well-being,” said Earthjustice VP of Litigation Patrice Simms.
On Capitol Hill, Earthjustice's Policy and Legislation advocates have drawn attention to the series of Trump appointments that put people at the helm of regulatory agencies they’ve spent their careers attacking, including at the EPA, Interior Department, Council on Environmental Quality and Consumer Product Safety Commission. “Putting people in charge of attacking the very agencies they serve on is a chilling reminder of the extent to which the Trump administration is willing to stack the deck on the side of industries, at the expense of public health and safety,” says Earthjustice policy advocate Andrea Delgado.
And, Earthjustice's clean energy attorneys have been advancing renewable energy across the country, from Maryland to Louisiana, Nevada to West Virginia, California to Ohio, Colorado to Florida, Kentucky to Hawaiʻi, and many more. "These projects will not only unlock a huge, untapped source of renewable energy," said Clean Energy Attorney Susan Stevens Miller, on May 11, as Maryland approved the nation's largest offshore wind farms to date, "They will create thousands of new jobs in manufacturing and other sectors. The message from Maryland is clear—clean, renewable, job-creating energy is our future."
We all have a right to clean air, clean water and a healthy environment. Earthjustice will defend bedrock safeguards for all communities. Join us in taking action as we dig in for these important fights.
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