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The Earth needs a good lawyer. And in this pivotal moment, Earthjustice has 130. We’re the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.

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121 Lawsuits

Earthjustice lawsuits are leading to a wave of court victories, holding the line against the Trump administration's attempts to ignore environmental laws and deny protections to the American public. Read the special report Two Years of Overruling Trump issued in Jan. 2019, for an analysis of how Trump’s efforts to weaken environmental regulations have been no match for the law.

We were built for this moment. The law has the power to make change.

Updated Jun. 11, 2019  |  Go to the latest
1.Ban ChlorpyrifosDetails
Part of a suite of cases challenging U.S. EPA's refusal to ban food uses of chlorpyrifos, an acutely toxic pesticide linked to permanent harm of children's developing brains. Sept. 24, 2018: U.S. EPA requests the 9th Circuit re-hear the case.

For half a century, U.S. staple foods such as corn, wheat, apples and citrus have been sprayed with chlorpyrifos, a dangerous pesticide that causes acute pesticide poisonings and at alarmingly low doses damages 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 had to make a decision by Mar. 31, 2017, under a court order deadline. On Mar. 29, 2017, Administrator Pruitt issued an order refusing to ban the pesticide.

“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, Northwest Regional Office, Earthjustice.

On Oct. 10, 2017, 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.

On June 5, 2017, a dozen health, labor and civil rights organizations, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and an administrative appeal to the EPA, arguing EPA acted in blatant violation of the law in refusing to ban chlorpyrifos. The case was argued on Jul. 9, 2018, with the appeals court ruling on Aug. 9 that EPA must finalize its proposed ban on chlorpyrifos within 60 days.

Our clients on the administrative appeal League of United Latin American Citizens, United Farm Workers, Farmworker Association of Florida, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Farmworker Justice, GreenLatinos, National Hispanic Medical Association, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Learning Disability Association of America, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Pesticide Action Network North America, Natural Resources Defense Council

2.BLM Fracking Rule InterventionDetails
Federal protections are needed safeguard water, wildlife, public health from harmful effects of hydraulic fracturing on federal, tribal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Jan. 24, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

On Jul. 25, 2017, 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, 2017, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver vacated the lower court ruling which meant the protections would take effect. However, on Dec. 27, 2017, the court stayed its mandate until Jan. 12, 2018—and on Dec. 28, BLM announced its final repeal of the fracking rule.

The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 24, asks 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.

Our clients 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, Western Resource Advocates

3.CAFO Air Reporting Rule ChallengeDetails
U.S. EPA rule exempted industrial livestock facilities — also known as “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” — from reporting air pollution. Apr. 11, 2017: D.C. Circuit rules in our favor.

In many rural communities across the country, longtime residents have suddenly found themselves surrounded by industrial livestock facilities. In these facilities, hundreds of cows, thousands of pigs or tens of thousands of chickens are kept in confined spaces to be fattened up as quickly as possible. Every day, families living near these facilities are exposed to toxic ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from the manure created and stored at these confined animal feeding operations.

These industrial animal facilities are prodigious factories that generate dangerous air and water pollution, yet unlike other factories, they’ve been given a free pass from reporting their toxic emissions.

On Apr. 11, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's exemption for these facilities was illegal. The court also recognized that there are “real benefits” to pollution reporting, and that there are practical measures, like changes in waste management systems, that these animal facilities can take to reduce their emissions.

However, instead of following the court’s ruling, the EPA continues to turn a blind eye to pollution from industrial animal agriculture: on Apr. 27, 2018, the agency proposed a sweeping exemption that would shield thousands of livestock facilities from reporting. Community and environmental groups, including Earthjustice, continue to push the agency to address pollution from animal feedlots.

Our clients Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Humane Society of the United States, Environmental Integrity Project, Center for Food Safety

4.BLM Methane RuleDetails
Part of a suite of cases fighting for safeguards to control venting, flaring, leaking of methane from oil & gas operations on public, tribal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Apr. 20, 2018: Motion for Stay Pending Appeal filed.

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 Jul. 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.

"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.”

Our clients Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Western Organization of Resource Councils, and The Wilderness Society

5.Uinta Basin Oil and Gas Leasing
Challenging the Bureau of Land Management's decision to issue 121 oil and gas leases in northwest Colorado and northeast Utah without considering how the air pollution from developing the leases will adversely impact public health, the environment, and treasured public lands, such as Dinosaur National Monument. The region already suffers from high levels of ozone pollution, primarily due to oil and gas development. Sept. 27, 2018: Lawsuit filed.
6.Clean Water RuleDetails
The Clean Water Rule — also known as “Waters of the U.S.” — safeguards drinking water sources across the country. The U.S. EPA is attempting to dismantle the protections. Nov. 26, 2018: U.S. District Court for Western District of Washington rules on our motion for summary judgment.

On Feb. 28, 2017, 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 Jul. 27, then-EPA 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. The amended complaint was filed on May 1. Summary judgment briefing will last until early October. 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. On Nov. 26, the U.S. District Court for Western District of Washington granted in part our motion for summary judgment and issued a nationwide vacatur of EPA and the U.S. Army Corps’ “applicability date rule,” which had delayed application of the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule for a period of two years.

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.

Our clients Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Idaho Conservation League

7.Power Plant ELGDetails
Part of a suite of cases enforcing protections — known as “Effluent Limitation Guidelines” — from arsenic, mercury, lead and other pollutants being discharged into our waterways by coal-fired power plants. Apr. 12, 2019: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit directs EPA to strengthen limits on toxic wastewater from power plants.

Coal plants all over the country dump toxic chemicals into rivers, lakes, and streams that millions of Americans use for drinking water and recreation.

The toxics in coal plant waste can cause cancer, make fish unsafe to eat, and inflict lasting brain damage on small children. Heavy metals in the waste, like lead, arsenic, and mercury, don’t degrade over time, and can concentrate as they travel up the food chain—impacting fish and wildlife, and ultimately collecting in people’s bodies. Power plant pollution can also make municipal water bills more expensive because water treatment plants may have to spend more money to ensure that they deliver safe water to their customers.

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.

“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.”

Our clients Clean Water Action, Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, PennEnvironment, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Chesapeake, Prairie Rivers Network

8.Salmon Pesticides Delay
9.Wishbone Hill Surface Coal Mine PermitDetails
Coal mine sited directly across from Ya Ne Dah Ah School, the only school in Alaska owned and operated by an Alaska Native tribe, threatens the Chickaloon Native Village's traditional way of life.

The Ya Ne Dah Ah School is the heart and soul of the Chickaloon Native Village in Alaska. One of the first, and only, schools in the state that is owned and operated by a federally-recognized tribal government, the school excels at teaching tribal youth the skills they need to succeed in the world outside the village, as well as the cultural traditions and Ahtna language that sustain their indigenous identity.

Today the future of the Ya Ne Dah Ah School is under threat. The Wishbone Hill coal mine, which sits directly across from the school, was granted a permit to operate in 1990 but lay dormant for two decades. Beginning in 2010, Usibelli Mining Company launched efforts to commence mining operations. They clear-cut row after row of trees and began building a road that runs almost directly across from the school. The road currently sits unused in the middle of a sacred area, bisected by Moose Creek, where Chickaloon Native Village tribal citizens have gathered food, hunted and fished for generations.

If the federal government’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement allows Usibelli to continue move forward, the future of the school — and this sacred area — is at stake.

Chickaloon Native Village, represented by Earthjustice, has been working with other local groups to keep the mine closed.

“Wishbone Hill is no place for a coal mine, never mind one that got its permit a quarter-century ago,” said Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo. “It’s time for a fresh look and for fresh thinking about how to provide energy in the era of climate change.”

Our client Chickaloon Native Village

10.GE SalmonDetails
FDA inadequately reviewed first-ever application for approval of a genetically engineered animal intended for human consumption. Jan. 16, 2018: Ninth Circuit denies agency's mandamus petition. FDA sought to hide documents.

In 2015, the FDA approved a genetically engineered salmon made from the DNA of three different animals: Atlantic salmon, deep water ocean eelpout, and Pacific Chinook salmon. The GE version is intended to grow faster than conventional farmed salmon, reportedly getting to commercial size in half the time.

It was the first time any government in the world has approved a GE animal for commercial sale and consumption. If the GE salmon were to escape, it could threaten wild salmon populations by outcompeting them for scarce resources and habitat, by mating with endangered salmon species, and by introducing new diseases.

The world’s preeminent experts on GE fish and risk assessment, as well as biologists at U.S. wildlife agencies charged with protecting fish and wildlife, heavily criticized the FDA for failing to evaluate these impacts. In March 2016, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the agency.

As part of the lawsuit, the FDA is required to compile a record of documents that illuminate the path the agency followed to reach its decision to approve the GE salmon. A complete record is essential in all cases. The FDA had refused to release most of the documents related to its decision, despite repeated requests for that information from Earthjustice’s clients under the Freedom of Information Act.

Withholding that information is illegal because government agencies like the FDA are funded by taxpayer dollars, which means that any records they create, with only limited exceptions, can and should be available to the public and to citizens seeking to hold the government accountable in court.

In January 2017, a U.S. District Court judge agreed, concluding that “the government is wrong to assert that these types of materials…should be excluded” from the record. The FDA is now required to fully complete the record with all relevant documents no later than July 2017.

“Our courts provide a level playing field where not even the federal government is above the law,” said Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda. “Federal agencies cannot avoid accountability by omitting inconvenient facts and presenting a fictional account of their decisions.”

Our clients Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Food Safety (Plaintiffs are jointly represented by Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety)

11.Manufactured Housing Efficiency Standards
Energy Dept. fails to act on energy efficiency standards for newly constructed manufactured housing. Increased efficiency will result in energy savings, leading to lower utility bills for residents and reduced emissions of air pollutants. Mar. 12, 2019: D.C. District Court rules in our favor.
12.Paint and Dust Lead StandardsDetails
U.S. EPA must update definitions of what constitutes a "dust-lead hazard" and "lead-based paint" under the Toxic Substances Control Act, in light of scientific evidence that the existing standards are inadequately protective. Jun. 22, 2018: U.S. EPA issues pre-publication version of proposed rule, following Ninth Circuit ruling.

A coalition of national and regional groups across the country is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to update standards that protect families against neurotoxic lead-based paint and lead dust.

The “unreasonable delay” lawsuit, filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, argued that seven years after EPA granted a 2009 petition to update these standards, EPA had yet to propose—much less finalize—any new standards.

In the filing, the coalition asked the court to require the EPA to propose an updated rule within 90 days and finalize that rule within six months, noting that federal courts have compelled action on other matters when public health is at risk.

A number of organizations made the initial request to EPA in 2009 based on scientific evidence that showed the existing lead standards were inadequate to protect the public’s health. Children under the age of six are particularly vulnerable to neurological damage from lead because they’re growing rapidly.

Lead poisoning can cause severe physical and mental impairment and death, according to the Mayo Clinic. In adults, lead exposure, even in miniscule amounts, can cause high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and damage to the male reproductive system. In children, it can cause diminished I.Q., learning disabilities, hyperactivity, impaired hearing and attention-related behavioral problems.

“These organizations want people to know that lead exposure is irreversibly damaging people’s health in communities all over the country and they want EPA to do its job to protect children from harm,” said Earthjustice attorney Hannah Chang. “The most common cause of lead poisoning in children in this country is the ingestion of lead dust from old house paint.”

Our clients A Community Voice, California Communities Against Toxics, Healthy Homes Collaborative, New Jersey Citizen Action, New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning, Sierra Club, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, United Parents Against Lead National

13.Peabody Bankruptcy
Part of a suite of cases opposing any efforts to remove or weaken coal companies' environmental and health obligations and liabilities during bankruptcy proceedings, and ensuring such obligations are adequately funded.
14.2015 Ozone Implementation
Challenge aspects of U.S. EPA's rule governing implementation of the 2015 national ambient air quality standard for ozone. Feb. 4, 2019: Petition for Review filed.
15.Arkansas Haze FIP
Part of a suite of cases to enforce effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants.
16.PM2.5 Implementation Rule
Fine particulate matter — known as “PM2.5” or soot — is caused by pollution from tailpipes, smokestacks and industrial power plants. It is a lethal airborne pollutant that lodges deep within the lungs, causing cardiovascular harm such as heart attacks and strokes, and premature death.
17.Texas SO2 NAAQS Area Designations
Part of a suite of cases to enforce effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants.
18.Bears Ears Monument DefenseDetails
President illegally stripped protections from more than one million acres of the Utah national monument, violating the 1906 Antiquities Act. Dec. 7, 2017: Lawsuit filed.

Bears Ears National Monument was designated in response to a concerted effort by the Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni tribal governments to seek lasting protection for the unique historic and contemporary cultural values and sites in the Bears Ears region. The monument stretches across scenic mesas, towering sandstone cliffs and canyons that epitomize the beauty of southern Utah.

More than 100,000 Native American archaeological and cultural sites, some dating to 12,000 B.C., are protected in Bears Ears. Tribes continue to visit these lands to hold ceremonies and to connect with their ancestors.

Three days after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on Dec. 4 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.”

Our clients 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, 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.)

19.Arctic Ocean Withdrawal DefenseDetails
Challenging unlawful reversal of permanent ban on new offshore oil & gas drilling in the Arctic, Atlantic Oceans. Mar. 29, 2019: The U.S. District Court for Alaska rules the reversal is illegal.

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.”

Our clients League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, REDOIL (Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands), Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, The Wilderness Society. (Natural Resources Defense Council is co-counsel.)

20.Regional Haze Rule Revisions
Part of a suite of cases enforcing effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants.
21.2-1 Executive OrderDetails
Federal agencies blocked from issuing new health, consumer, workplace safeguards, unless they repeal existing ones. Apr. 2, 2018: Amended complaint filed

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, 2017. On Feb. 26, a district court granted the government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. On. Apr. 2, we filed an amended complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“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.”

Our clients National Resources Defense Council, Communications Workers of America, Public Citizen. (Plaintiffs were represented by lawyers at Public Citizen Litigation Group, NRDC, CWA and Earthjustice.)

22.Trump Reinstatement of Federal Coal ProgramDetails
Interior Dept. order opens tens of thousands of acres of public lands to the coal industry, at expense of taxpayers, clean air, water, climate.

Coal mined from public lands contributes more than 40% of the United States’ coal and approximately 10% of its greenhouse gas pollution. Coal mining and combustion also impose heavy air quality and public health costs through emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and mercury.

On Mar. 29, 2017, Earthjustice sued the Department of Interior over an order opening tens of thousands of acres of public lands to the coal industry.  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s order lifting a moratorium on federal coal leasing came a day after President Trump’s executive order rolling back protections for public health, climate, and the environment.

The pause in leasing was ordered in 2016 under the Obama administration to allow time to reform the federal program to protect the climate and American taxpayers. The program has not been significantly updated since 1979.

In just the first stage of that review, completed January 2017, the Interior Department found that coal mining fouls the air, pollutes streams and destroys wildlife habitat on public land. More than one-tenth of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the pollution driving climate change, come from federal coal.

“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.”

Our clients Citizens for Clean Energy, Montana Environmental Information Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians Defenders of Wildlife. (The Northern Cheyenne Tribe also filed suit.)

23.ACF Water ControlDetails
U.S. Army Corps' Environmental Impact Statement claims that Corps' action would have little to no adverse effect on the ecologically rich Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers ecosystem.Jun. 27, 2018: U.S. Supreme Court rules in a separate lawsuit on the Flint River.

Earthjustice filed a legal challenge to compel the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to comply with federal environmental laws in establishing proper water management for the one of America’s most significant river systems—the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, shows that the Army Corps failed to properly protect the environment when it developed a water management plan that will guide freshwater flows through the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system for decades to come.

The lawsuit further points out that the Corps’ plan, and the environmental impact statement used to develop that plan, violate several federal environmental laws: the National Environmental Policy Act, the Water Resources Development Act and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. The suit asks the Court to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to re-do the water management plan and environmental impact statement to comply with federal environmental laws.

“The Corps wrongly concluded that its plan would have little to no adverse impact on the Apalachicola ecosystem—a finding that is both legally indefensible and factually unsupportable,” said Tania Galloni, managing attorney of Earthjustice's Florida Regional Office. "It is directly contradicted by an extensive body of factual and scientific evidence presented to the Corps during the public comment periods."

Our clients National Wildlife Federation, Florida Wildlife Federation, Apalachicola Riverkeeper

24.Five Signed Efficiency RulesDetails

Earthjustice joined 11 states, the city of New York, and the Natural Resources Defense Council 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."

Our clients Sierra Club, Consumer Federation of America

25.Chemical Disaster RuleDetails
U.S. EPA proposed gutting crucial standards needed to protect families, workers from toxic chemicals. Aug. 17, 2018: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the EPA must end the delay of the live-saving protections.

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 U.S. EPA announced that it would delay its implementation for an additional 20 months. Without adequate protections, preventable tragedies have continued to occur.

Since the protections were delayed, more than 58 publicly known chemical incidents have occurred.

Earthjustice took to the courts to challenge the illegal delay of these protections and filed our opening brief on Oct. 25, 2017. Oral arguments were heard in the spring of 2018. On May 25, we submitted a response to EPA’s notification that it has signed a pre-publication proposal on which it intends to take notice-and-comment. On Aug. 17, 2018, the D.C. Circuit ruled that the EPA's delay of the Chemical Disaster Rule was illegal and arbitrary. Industries will now need to start implementing these protections.

Our clients 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, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (West Virginia)

26.Challenge to Power Plant ELG StayDetails
Part of a suite of cases enforcing protections — known as “Effluent Limitation Guidelines” — from arsenic, mercury, lead and other pollutants being discharged into our waterways by coal-fired power plants.

Coal plants all over the country dump toxic chemicals into rivers, lakes, and streams that millions of Americans use for drinking water and recreation.

The toxics in coal plant waste can cause cancer, make fish unsafe to eat, and inflict lasting brain damage on small children. Heavy metals in the waste, like lead, arsenic, and mercury, don’t degrade over time, and can concentrate as they travel up the food chain—impacting fish and wildlife, and ultimately collecting in people’s bodies. Power plant pollution can also make municipal water bills more expensive because water treatment plants may have to spend more money to ensure that they deliver safe water to their customers.

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.

“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.

Our clients Clean Water Action, Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, PennEnvironment, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Chesapeake, Prairie Rivers Network

27.Ending Dusky Shark OverfishingDetails
Fisheries Service failed to end overfishing of the imperiled species. Mar. 11, 2019: D.C. District Court rules in our favor.

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, 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 the lawsuit, 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.

On Mar. 11, the D.C. District Court ruled against the Trump administration for violating federal law by failing to use all available scientific evidence to end the overfishing of dusky sharks in U.S. waters. The ruling requires the federal government to do more to end the rampant overfishing that has plagued dusky sharks.

“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.”

Our client Oceana

28.Bayou Bridge PipelineDetails
Army Corps failed to consider irreparable harm to Atchafalaya River Basin. Sept. 1, 2018: Motion for partial summary judgment filed.

Representing the interests of the millions of people who use, visit, study and rely on the Atchafalaya Great River Swamp, our clients 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 ancient, invaluable cypress and tupelo river swamps.

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 a preliminary injunction blocking any further work on the Bayou Bridge pipeline. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that injunction and allowed construction to resume. The legal case continues.

Our clients Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association (West), Gulf Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club

29.CPA Rule DelayDetails
Revisions to crucial safeguards in Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule would permit minors to work with pesticides. Mar. 21, 2018: Court rules EPA acted illegally.

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.

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.”

Our clients Farmworker Association of Florida, United Farm Workers, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Pesticide Action Network North America

30.Rosemont Copper Mine ChallengeDetails
Open-pit mine near Arizona's Santa Rita Mountains would desecrate burial sites, destroy groundwater resources. Apr. 12, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

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.

Our clients Tohono O’odham Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the Hopi Tribe

31.Ozone Designations Delay 2017Details
U.S. EPA delay of critical air protections could cost hundreds of lives. Mar. 12, 2018: Court rules in our favor.

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.

"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."

Our clients American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, American Thoracic Society, Appalachian Mountain Club, National Parks Conservation Association, National Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, West Harlem Environmental Action. (Environmental Defense Fund and Environmental Law and Policy Center are partners.)

32.BLM Methane Rule Stay ChallengeDetails
Part of a suite of cases fighting for safeguards to control venting, flaring, leaking of methane from oil & gas operations on public, tribal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

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 Jul. 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.

"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.”

Our clients Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Western Organization of Resource Councils, and The Wilderness Society

33.Red Snapper Rec Season ChallengeDetails
Commerce Dept. sanctioned overfishing of Gulf of Mexico red snapper.

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.

Our clients Environmental Defense Fund, Ocean Conservancy

34.Texas Regional HazeDetails
U.S. 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.

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."

Our clients National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund

35.Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Bear DelistingDetails
U.S. FWS stripped endangered species protections, defying best available science and sidestepping important legal safeguards. Sept. 24, 2018: Court rules the administration's decision to strip safeguards was illegal, reinstating protections and stopping planned trophy hunts of the bears.

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, 2017, 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, 2018, 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.

Directly following oral arguments in federal court in Missoula, Montana, on Aug. 30, 2018, Earthjustice requested and was granted a temporary restraining order, temporarily halting trophy hunts that were planned for Sept. 1. See what happened.

On Sept. 13, 2018, Earthjustice was granted an extension of the temporary restraining order, preventing the hunts for another 14 days. On Sept. 24, federal safeguards for Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears were reinstated on Sept. 24, after Judge Dana L. Christensen ruled the Trump administration’s decision to strip Endangered Species Act protections from the grizzlies was illegal. The decision spares the grizzlies from the trophy hunts scheduled in Wyoming and Idaho.

Our clients Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association

36.Our Children's Trust Amicus
Our Children's Trust alleges the U.S. government has violated children's constitutional rights and its obligation to protect essential public trust resources through actions that cause climate change. Mar. 7, 2018: Ninth Circuit denies government's petition for writ of mandamus
37.Calorie Labeling ChallengeDetails
FDA delayed compliance, denying public's right to know and right to make informed choices. May 7, 2018: Labeling rules now in effect.

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 lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. 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.

Our clients Center for Science in the Public Interest, National Consumers League

38.Colorado Sage Grouse Defense
Once numbering in the millions, the species has been decimated by oil and gas development and other disturbances.
39.TSCA Framework Rules ChallengeDetails
U.S. EPA guts crucial standards under Toxic Substances Control Act that are needed to protect families, workers from toxic chemicals.

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.

The complaint was filed in federal court in San Francisco.

“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.

Our clients 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, Sierra Club

40.Oil and Gas NSPS, Leak Repairs
U.S. EPA attempts to delay the effectiveness of standards limiting emissions of methane and other pollutants from sources in the oil and gas sector. Jul. 3, 2017: D.C. Circuit grants our request for summary vacatur of U.S. EPA's stay, reinstating protections.
41.Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument DefenseDetails
President illegally stripped national monument protections from more than one million acres from this area of iconic dinosaur treasures in Utah, in violation of the 1906 Antiquities Act. Dec. 4, 2017: Lawsuit filed.

Home to some of the most dramatic desert scenery in the West, “Dinosaur Shangri-la.” In the two decades since the area was protected, paleontologists have unearthed fossils from 21 different types of dinosaurs previously unknown to science.

Earthjustice, on behalf of conservation groups, successfully defended Grand Staircase-Escalante in the early 2000s when two Utah counties sought to expand use of off-road dirt bikes and ATVs within the monument area.

The work to establish Grand Staircase-Escalante in the late 1990's vulnerable to coal mining and oil and gas development, according to an analysis from the Center for American Progress.

Hours after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on Dec. 4 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.

The lawsuit charges that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act by stripping monument protections from this national treasure.

“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.

Our clients The Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, 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.)

42.ELG Rollback FOIADetails
Challenging U.S. EPA's delay in responding to Freedom of Information Act request regarding rollback of protections — known as “Effluent Limitation Guidelines” — from arsenic, mercury, lead and other pollutants being discharged into our waterways by coal-fired power plants.

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 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is illegally refusing to provide the public with key information on why it’s scrapping new safeguards to protect public health from water contamination.

A coalition of environmental and public health advocates filed suit in federal district court in Manhattan to compel the EPA to stop withholding critical information about the Trump administration’s swift attempt to roll back safeguards against America’s leading source of toxic water pollution: coal power plants.

Despite acknowledging that it has hundreds, if not thousands, of documents that are responsive to the request, the EPA has produced only one document—and much of that document was inked out before releasing.

To find out why the agency would take an action so contrary to the public’s interest, Earthjustice filed a FOIA request on behalf of the coalition in April, asking the EPA to provide the documents that led to the decision to allow more toxic coal waste dumping in America’s waterways. Four months later, despite acknowledging that it has hundreds, if not thousands, of documents that are responsive to the request, the EPA has produced only one document—and much of that document was inked out before releasing.

While the new EPA administration has rebuffed environmental and public health advocates, it has held numerous meetings with polluting industries, following up with accelerated actions that benefit polluters at the public’s expense.

“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.

Our clients Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Environmental Integrity Project

43.PA Medical Monitor PFCs Amicus
Brief filed on behalf of eight individual plaintiffs who formerly and/or currently live near U.S. Navy bases and whose families suffered significant medical effects associated with exposure to PFOA/PFOS. Oct. 2, 2018: 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals rules affected families can proceed with lawsuit.
44.Shellfish Aquaculture Permit
U.S. Army Corps permit would allow commercial operations — without requiring minimization of impact — in thousands of acres of pristine, undisturbed areas of Washington State's Puget Sound.
45.Back Forty MineDetails
Open-pit mine on Wisconsin-Michigan border is located within an expansive Menominee cultural landscape. Jan. 17, 2019: Appeal filed in in the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

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. Oral arguments were held on Aug. 2, 2018. In Dec. 2018, the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin dismissed the Tribe’s claims against the federal government. The Tribe filed an appeal on Jan. 17, 2019.

“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."

Our client The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin

46.FERC Grid Resiliency RulemakingDetails
Energy Dept. proposed multi-billion dollar handout to unprofitable fossil-fuel power plants. Jan. 8, 2018: FERC denies bailout.

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.”

Our clients Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Sustainable FERC Project, Union Of Concerned Scientists, The Center For Biological Diversity, The Environmental Law & Policy Center, The Southern Environmental Law Center, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Working Group, Fresh Energy

47.Monuments FOIADetails
Challenging federal agencies' delay in responding to Freedom of Information Act request regarding its review of national monuments. Jun. 15, 2018: Interior Dept. releases documents.

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."

Our clients Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Great Old Broads for Wilderness

48.Formaldehyde in Wood ProductsDetails
U.S. EPA attempted to illegally extend compliance deadlines on limits to hazardous formaldehyde gas permitted to be released from manufactured wood products. Jun. 1, 2018: Protections come into effect.

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 EPA 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.

Our clients A Community Voice, Sierra Club

49.Cadiz Right of WayDetails
Water-mining project through Mojave Trails National Monument would drain California desert aquifer. Feb. 28, 2018: Amended complaint filed.

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, filed on Nov. 28, 2017, 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.”

Our clients Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety

50.ESA Recovery Plan Amicus
Key protections of the Endangered Species Act are at risk of being hollowed out.
51.Montana BLM 2017 / 2018 Lease Sales – Groundwater
Bureau of Land Management approves lease sales for oil and gas development without regards to impacts on groundwater. May 15, 2018: Lawsuit filed.
52.Rock Creek Mine ESA Challenge
Challenging failure of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service to comply with Endangered Species Act in approving commencement of the Rock Creek Mine project, a major industrial copper and silver mine proposed in the Cabinet Mountains of northwest Montana. Jan. 25, 2019: Complaint filed.
53.Atlantic Seismic IBLADetails
Airgun blasting would inflict permanent hearing damage on marine mammals. Jul. 21, 2017: Technical comments filed.

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.

54.Red Snapper FOIADetails
Challenging agency's delay in responding to Freedom of Information Act regarding Commerce Dept. sanctions overfishing of Gulf of Mexico red snapper. Jan. 23, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

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.

Our clients Environmental Defense Fund, Ocean Conservancy

55.BLM Methane Rule SuspensionDetails
Part of a suite of cases fighting for safeguards to control venting, flaring, leaking of methane from oil & gas operations on public, tribal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

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 Jul. 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.

"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.”

Our clients Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Western Organization of Resource Councils, and The Wilderness Society

56.Transport/Haze/Texas Update
Part of a suite of cases enforcing effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants.
57.EPA Science Board IntegrityDetails
Publicly funded, independent scientists being replaced with advocates for polluting industries. Feb. 12, 2019: D.C. Circuit District Court rules to dismiss the case.

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.

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 on Dec. 21, 2017, 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. On Feb. 12, 2019, the D.C. Circuit District Court granted U.S. EPA's motion to dismiss the case.

Our clients Physicians for Social Responsibility, National Hispanic Medical Association, the International Society for Children’s Health and Environment, Professor Edward Avol. (Independent scientists Dr. Robyn Wilson and Dr. Joseph Arvai are also parties in the suit. They are represented by the Columbia Environmental Law Clinic, Morningside Heights Legal Services at Columbia Law School.)

58.Mexican Wolf Recovery PlanDetails
Deeply flawed recovery plan for one of North America’s most endangered mammals disregards best available science. Jan. 30, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

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.

“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.”

Our clients Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, retired Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David R. Parsons, Endangered Wolf Center, Wolf Conservation Center

59.Pulp Mills Air Toxics Rule
Part of a suite of cases enforcing effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants.
60.West Elk Coal LeaseDetails
Coal mine expansions plans in Colorado’s iconic West Elk Wilderness Area will destroy pristine public lands and further lock the country into fossil fuel dependence.

Forests next to Colorado’s iconic West Elk Wilderness Area provide habitat for the threatened lynx, support the Sunset Trail, a backcountry hiking and horseback trail, and provides a valuable linkage between the West Elk Wilderness Area and lowland forests along the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

Earthjustice is fighting to halt Arch Coal’s plans to turn the Sunset Roadless Area, which is right next to the scenic West Elk Wilderness, into an industrial zone of well pads and roads, with an average of 16 wells pads per square mile.

Although the West Elk coal mine is underground, the coal seams are some of the gassiest in the nation. To get the coal safely, Arch Coal will drill wells above the mine to vent the methane gas into the air. Methane is not only natural gas, a valuable and useful product, but also a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times more heat trapping ability than carbon dioxide. Data shows the amount of methane vented at West Elk could heat a city about the size of Grand Junction.

Both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have refused to require Arch to capture, burn, or reduce any of the mine’s methane pollution, or to simply say enough to the wasteful and inefficient practice.

On Jun. 8, 2017, the Trump administration pushed ahead with a plan to approve Arch Coal’s proposal to lease 1,700 acres of roadless wildlands in the Gunnison National Forest for mining 17 million tons of coal. The plan, addressed in a draft environmental impact study, would greenlight exploratory drilling and road construction to expand the West Elk coal mine about 40 miles southwest of Aspen.

The impact of pushing more coal into the energy market at a time when the demand for coal has dropped could undercut efforts to transition to a clean energy economy. A 2016 Forest Service study concluded that opening Colorado roadless forests to coal mining would displace renewable energy from the grid.

“The Trump administration’s rubber-stamping of Arch Coal’s mine expansion displays its utter contempt for our national forests, our public health, and public opinion,” said Ted Zukoski, staff attorney in Earthjustice's Rocky Mountains Office.

Our clients High Country Conservation Advocates, Center for Biological Diversity, Wilderness Workshop, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians

61.Texas BART Challenge
Part of a suite of cases enforcing effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants.
62.EPA FOIA PoliciesDetails
Agency refused to comply with public records laws in providing public with information to which it is legally entitled. Feb. 2, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

Earthjustice 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.

Our clients Sierra Club

63.BLM Fracking Rule RepealDetails
Federal protections are needed safeguard water, wildlife, public health from harmful effects of hydraulic fracturing on federal, tribal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Jan. 24, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

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.

Our clients Sierra Club, Earthworks, Western Resource Advocates, The Wilderness Society, Conservation Colorado Education Fund, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

64.WPS Training DelayDetails
U.S. EPA illegally shelves updated training materials mandated under the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, putting at risk health of workers, families. Jun. 22, 2018: EPA finally publishes the Notice of Availability in Federal Register.

Farmworker groups represented by Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on May 30 for shelving improved pesticide training materials that agricultural workers depend on to protect themselves, and their families, from chemical poisoning. The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York.

EPA acknowledges the updated training materials have been ready for more than a year, but is refusing to issue a notice in the Federal Register announcing their availability. Doing so would make the improved training mandatory for the industry. Updated and improved pesticide training materials for farmworkers are mandated under the 2015 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS), a federal set of safeguards meant to prevent pesticide poisonings.

The attorneys general of New York, Maryland and California filed a similar lawsuit also on May 30.

Doctors diagnose thousands of poisonings a year among agricultural workers. The health costs of poisoning overwhelmingly impact rural communities of color. According to the government’s own findings, the benefits of the improved WPS exceeds $64 million each year in avoided health costs.

On Jun. 22, EPA finally published the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register. The action begins a 180 day countdown, after which the long-awaited updated training will finally become mandatory

“This should have been a no-brainer,” said Earthjustice attorney Hannah Chang. “Because of EPA’s refusal to act earlier, thousands of farmworkers were not receiving the training they needed to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure.”

Our clients Rural & Migrant Ministry, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, El Comité de Apoyo a Los Trabajadores Agrícolas, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Worker Justice Center of New York

65.Air Toxics Loophole InterventionDetails
Part of a suite of cases enforcing effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants. Mar. 26, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

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.

“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.”

Our clients California Communities Against Toxics, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Ohio Citizen Action, The Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club. (Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council joined the suit.)

66.NPR-A Lease SalesDetails
Illegal oil and gas drilling lease sales in Western Arctic — also known as “National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska” — the nation’s largest public lands reserve. Feb. 2, 2018: Lawsuit 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 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.

Our clients Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth

67.N. Atl. Right Whales: Lobster FisheryDetails
The North Atlantic right whales are on the brink of extinction. NOAA is legally required to take action. Feb. 8, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

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.

“NOAA Fisheries admits there is a crisis,” said Earthjustice attorney Erica Fuller, “But without immediate action, right whales could go extinct in our lifetime.”

Our client Conservation Law Foundation

68.Air Toxics Deregulation
U.S. EPA attempting to enlarge an already-dangerous loophole allowing major industrial polluters to turn off pollution control equipment.
69.Louisiana Haze Plan
Part of a suite of cases enforcing effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants.
70.Louisiana Haze CD
Part of a suite of cases enforcing effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants.
71.Texas Substitute Redesignations
Part of a suite of cases enforcing effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants.
72.WPS/CPA FOIA ChallengeDetails
Challenging U.S. EPA delay in complying with Freedom of Information Act request for communications between the agency and interest groups related to the anticipated gutting of pesticide safeguards — Agricultural Worker Protection Standard and Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule — that protect farmworkers, families, and communities from toxic chemicals. Apr. 17, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on Apr. 17 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.”

Our client Farmworker Justice

73.North Kuiu Timber SaleDetails
Old-growth timber sale on the island would harm local businesses, wildlife. May 16, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

Local conservation and business interests represented by Earthjustice sued the U.S. Forest Service to stop an old-growth timber sale on Kuiu Island in the Tongass National Forest. The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Alaska, says the Forest Service’s environmental analysis is 11 years old and fails to consider new threats from the proposed 13.6 million board foot sale on North Kuiu Island. The sale could wipe out 523 acres of old growth forest.

North Kuiu Island has become a recreational hotspot, and the timber sale would injure regional economic interests. Small cruise vessels bring hundreds of visitors to the island every year, where they take part in kayaking, hiking, beachcombing and other recreational activities, and provide business to local merchants as they pass through the region. Logging would happen in sight of Kuiu’s popular bays, bring industrial traffic, and create a visible landscape of clearcuts that would take the island off tour itineraries for years.

The proposed sale would damage the environment. Recent scientific analyses show that the populations of deer, black bear, and marten on the island are declining alarmingly and in ways that can be traced to Kuiu’s legacy of old growth logging.

Though this project has been in the works for more than a decade, the Forest Service has never sold any of the timber because the economics didn’t work. No logger could sell the timber for more than it cost to cut the trees down and transport them. The new sale proposed by the U.S. Forest Service is still unprofitable, but the Forest Service sweetened the deal for private loggers by shifting much of the cost to U.S. taxpayers. The agency funded nearly all the road construction needed for the sale. The Forest Service also approved the sale for 100 percent export — increasing immediate value for the logger but reducing the local economic benefit of the sale.

The Forest Service failed to evaluate, in a supplemental environmental impact statement, whether the high environmental, social, and economic costs of the sale could be justified in light of the increased cost to taxpayers and the decreased economic benefit of the sale.

“We won’t let the agency turn a blind eye to the sale’s serious economic, social, and environmental costs in the name of satisfying timber quotas,” said Earthjustice attorney Erin Whalen.

Our clients Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, The Boat Company, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Alaska Wilderness League, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, Natural Resources Defense Council

74.Hardrock Mining Financial AssurancesDetails
U.S. EPA fails to hold hardrock mining industry financially responsible for cleaning up its own pollution.

Environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against the U.S. EPA in the D.C. Circuit, challenging his failure to hold the hardrock mining industry financially responsible for cleaning up its toxic pollution. A proposed EPA rule would have required mining companies to demonstrate that they have the funds, up front, to cover cleanup of hazardous substances at mine sites. The rulemaking served to implement EPA authority granted 30 years ago under the federal Superfund program, and was initiated after more than a decade of litigation brought by environmentalists alarmed by toxic releases from hardrock mining — the leading source of hazardous releases in the U.S.

Yet Pruitt abandoned the new rule in December, effectively giving mining companies a huge handout and pinning the cost burden on taxpayers instead.

Throughout the western U.S., abandoned copper, gold and other hardrock mines have sat polluted for decades after valuable minerals were extracted, leaching acid mine drainage and even causing cyanide plumes that affect nearby residential drinking water supplies. When mine operators lack the funds to address these hazards, the cost burden is shifted onto taxpayers — often to the tune of hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars for a single site. And because there are only limited public funds available for cleanup, shifting the cleanup burden to taxpayers also means that cleanups are delayed, leaving public lands and nearby communities to live with poisoned land and water for decades.

The EPA estimates the backlog of cleanup costs for hardrock mines across the country at $20-$54 billion. In a legal battle stretching back more than a decade, plaintiffs pushed the EPA to complete this rulemaking process and require industry to demonstrate its financial ability not just to clean up expected hazards but also unanticipated toxic spills and accidents. Ultimately, this rule would have incentivized mining companies to avoid leaving cancer-causing chemicals behind, and kept the financial burden of cleanups off the backs of taxpayers.

“The fact of the matter is that people living near a contaminated site are exposed to harmful pollutants such as mercury and cyanide,” said Earthjustice attorney Amanda Goodin. “Scott Pruitt’s reckless and short-sighted decision to let mining companies trash our water and our lands — and then hand us the bill for the cleanup — is just adding insult to injury.”

Our clients Earthworks, Idaho Conservation League, Amigos Bravos, Great Basin Resource Watch, Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment

75.BLM Sage Grouse LeasingDetails
Once numbering in the millions, the species has been decimated by oil and gas development and other disturbances. Apr. 30, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

Conservationists filed suit in U.S. District Court in Montana against the Bureau of Land Management and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to demand that the administration uphold the deal made to save the greater sage-grouse and its habitat in 10 Western states. Under this administration, leasing and proposed leasing in sage-grouse habitat has increased, threatening the conservation of the species.

The lawsuit says the federal government has violated two laws, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, by disregarding the 2015 greater sage-grouse conservation plans and offering oil and gas leases on important sage-grouse habitat on public lands in Montana, Nevada and Wyoming in conflict with the safeguards detailed in the plans. In December alone, nearly 90 percent of the more than 200 parcels offered for oil and gas leases in Montana and 93 percent of the 45 parcels in Wyoming were in sage-grouse habitat.

In addition to the leases challenged in this sale, more oil and gas leasing is proposed in sage-grouse habitat in Colorado and across the West. Based on a preliminary list, virtually all of a 700,000 acre lease sale scheduled for December in Wyoming is in sage grouse habitat.

The protection of sage-grouse habitat is the result of one of the largest conservation efforts in U.S. history, which made a listing under the Endangered Species Act unnecessary for the greater sage-grouse by setting aside important habitat on public lands to enable the species to survive.

The planning effort, which took more than four years, involved intensive efforts by the U.S. Forest Service, Western governors, sportsmen, public lands users, and representatives of the oil and gas and ranching industries. Since taking office in 2017, however, the Trump administration has ignored those protections while offering hundreds of new leases in important sage-grouse habitat. Sage-grouse populations, which once numbered in the millions, have been decimated by oil and gas development and other disturbances. The 2015 BLM protections are central to preserving the species, because 45 percent of the grouse’s current habitat lies on lands managed by the BLM.

“Less than three years ago, the Interior Department committed to protect the sage-grouse,” said Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman, “We’re going to court in order to hold the government to the promises it made to the public.”

Our clients Montana Wildlife Federation, the Wilderness Society, National Audubon Society, and National Wildlife Federation

76.Virginia Ozone SIP
Part of a suite of cases enforce effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants. Nov. 14, 2018: 4th Circuit Court of Appeals grants EPA motion for voluntary vacatur and remand of EPA’s action approving changes to Virginia’s air quality implementation plan.
77.Car GHG StandardsDetails
U.S. EPA rollback of standards that limit carbon dioxide emissions — greenhouse gases — from cars and light trucks for model years 2022–25. May 16, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

Earthjustice is challenging a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision to reject Obama-era standards that limit carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks for model years 2022–25.

Issued in 2012, the standards will by EPA’s own projections reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over half a billion tons. A “Mid-Term Evaluation” by the Obama Administration in January 2017 determined that the standards were still appropriate. But at the direction of President Trump, the EPA revisited that determination, and in April 2018 withdrew it, claiming the 2012 emission standards are not appropriate and should be revised.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by several public interest organizations, including Earthjustice. It joins previous suits filed by California and over a dozen other states, and by business interests opposed to the rollback.

“Once again ignoring the severe climate crisis facing our nation, this administration is turning its back on reality and science, in favor of its polluter buddies,” said Earthjustice attorney Seth Johnson. “These standards are making big cuts in the carbon pollution that drives climate change, and a detailed technical review confirmed they’re workable.”

Our client Sierra Club

78.Hardrock Mining FOIA
Challenging U.S. EPA's delay in responding to Freedom of Information Act request.
79.Valley Lateral 401 Waiver Amicus
Part of a suite of cases limiting build-out of infrastructure that lock in our reliance on fossil fuels and jeopardize public health.
80.Significant Impact Levels
Part of a suite of cases enforcing effective implementation of the Clean Air Act to protect human health and the environment from exposure to air pollutants.
81.Ceiling Fan Standards
Illegally stalled energy efficiency standards put at risk bill savings, pollution reductions.
82.Chlorpyrifos FOIADetails
Challenging U.S. EPA's delay in responding to Freedom of Information Act request regarding agency's refusal to ban food uses of chlorpyrifos. Oct. 10, 2017: U.S. EPA releases documents.

For half a century, U.S. staple foods such as corn, wheat, apples and citrus have been sprayed with chlorpyrifos, a dangerous pesticide that causes acute pesticide poisonings and at alarmingly low doses damages 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 had to make a decision by Mar. 31, 2017, under a court order deadline. On Mar. 29, 2017, Administrator Pruitt issued an order refusing to ban the pesticide.

On June 5, 2017, a dozen health, labor and civil rights organizations, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and an administrative appeal to the EPA, arguing EPA acted in blatant violation of the law in refusing to ban chlorpyrifos. The case will be argued on Jul. 9, 2018.

On Oct. 10, 2017, 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.

“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, Northwest Regional Office, Earthjustice.

Our clients on the administrative appeal League of United Latin American Citizens, United Farm Workers, Farmworker Association of Florida, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Farmworker Justice, GreenLatinos, National Hispanic Medical Association, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Learning Disability Association of America, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Pesticide Action Network North America, Natural Resources Defense Council

83.Gulf Drilling ESA DelayDetails
Federal agencies failed to hold legally required consultation about offshore drilling’s harms to threatened and endangered species in the Gulf of Mexico, following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. Meanwhile, plans for drilling operations in the Gulf are ramping up. Jun. 21, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are required under the Endangered Species Act to complete a consultation with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on its oversight of oil and gas operations that could impact threatened and endangered species.

The last time the agencies completed a consultation, called a biological opinion, was in 2007, three years before the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster which led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Earthjustice, on behalf of the Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club, and Center for Biological Diversity, sued the Trump administration on Jun. 21 for failing to complete the legally required consultation about offshore drilling’s harms to threatened and endangered species in the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Florida, challenges the agencies for unreasonably delaying completion of a new consultation and seeking a court order to compel them to complete it within three months.

A new biological opinion likely would result in additional safeguards to prevent further harm to sea turtles, whales, and other threatened and endangered species from oil and gas operations in the Gulf.

“We seek to hold the Trump administration accountable to the law in its duty to protect endangered species and compel the oil and gas industry to clean up its act in the Gulf,” said Chris Eaton, attorney with Earthjustice's Oceans Program.

Our clients Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity

84.NE Essential Fish Habitat
New England's Omnibus Essential Fish Habitat Amendment opens thousands of square miles of northwest Atlantic Ocean to some of the most destructive forms of commercial fishing. May 9, 2018: Lawsuit filed.
85.Definition of Solid Waste
U.S. EPA's ‘Transfer-Based Exclusion’ allows companies to store, transport, and "recycle" a wide variety of hazardous wastes without meeting the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act's cradle-to-grave requirements for safe hazardous waste management. Apr. 9, 2019: Oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit.
86.Boundary Waters Canoe Area WildernessDetails
Interior Dept. reinstates 50-year-old mining leases upstream of the Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota. Jun. 25, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

The Boundary Waters is America’s most visited wilderness area. Explorers find refuge in its pristine waters and forested lands, which offer 1,200 miles of canoe routes and 18 hiking trails. The area also includes more than 1,000 lakes left by receding glaciers and hundreds of miles of streams.

On behalf of our clients, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on Jun. 25 in federal district court in Washington, D.C., to prevent sulfide-ore mining at the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota. The organizations joined nine Minnesota businesses that filed a separate lawsuit to protect this cherished recreation area from mining. Our clients joined nine Minnesota businesses that filed a separate lawsuit to protect this cherished recreation area from mining.

The lawsuit challenges the Department of the Interior’s May 2018 decision to reinstate two long-expired federal mineral leases held by foreign-owned mining company Twin Metals Minnesota. The pollution resulting from sulfide-ore copper mining would inevitably harm the water quality and ecology of these protected public lands and waterways. The local economy — which is sustained by tourism and jobs connected to this fishing, canoeing, and camping mecca — would also suffer.

Last month, the Interior Department reinstated the two expired mineral leases, which date back to 1966. The decision paves the way for Twin Metals to build an industrial mining complex on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

“The Interior Department’s attempt to reinstate leases that expired a year and a half ago is unlawful,” said Erin Whalen, attorney in Earthjustice's Alaska Regional Office. “The previous decision not to renew the leases came when the Forest Service, after a transparent public process, determined that mining would pose unacceptable risks to this world-class wilderness. Keeping this dangerous proposal alive is an end-run around that judicious conclusion, the Forest Service, and the public.

Our clients The Wilderness Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Izaak Walton League of America

87.Interior & BLM FOIA PoliciesDetails
Interior Dept. rolls back transparency measures, hiding information from the American people about lands, resources that belong to them. Jun. 26, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

Since 1967, the Freedom of Information Act has provided the public the right to request records from any federal agency. It is a law that keeps the American people in the know about their government.

When a member of the public lodges a request with a federal agency under this Act, the agency must promptly disclose any information requested unless the information falls under one of the nine exemptions protecting interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.

The United States Supreme Court has explained that the “basic purpose of FOIA is to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed.”

Earthjustice filed suit in federal court in the Northern District of California to pry lose suspected new agency guidelines around transparency at the Department of Interior put in place under Secretary Ryan Zinke.

The lawsuit comes amid a deeply problematic culture of secrecy that has taken root in the Department of the Interior, hiding information from the American public about major decisions, important records, and meetings with industry that affect the lands and resources the agency holds in trust for the American people.

The transparency lawsuit filed outlines several harmful Interior Department policies that have been reported, including a potential new practice of top officials reviewing the release of documents about themselves before they are released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.

Organizations are finding that they must turn to the courts to receive responses to Freedom of Information Act requests, and even then, the agency drags its feet. Federal law gives the agency 20 days to respond to a request. The lawsuit looks to uncover more about these and related policies.

“We’re suing because we want to know what Ryan Zinke is hiding,” said Yvonne Yuting Chi, attorney in Earthjustice's Rocky Mountain Office. “Our public lands and resources belong to the American people, and we deserve to know how major decisions are being made about them.”

Our clients Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club

88.Gulf of Mexico 2018 Lease SalesDetails
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s expansion of offshore drilling across 78 million acres rely on incorrect assumptions about the safety regulations and royalty rates that would apply to the leases. Jul. 17, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

Earthjustice sued the Trump administration for opening up more than 78 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling without fully analyzing the risks to people, wildlife, and the environment. The lease sales targeted in the suit are the largest ever offered for oil and gas development in U.S. history.

The lawsuit follows the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s announcement of its lease sale on August 15, 2018. The sale drew $178 million in winning bids, a significant increase over a March, 2018 auction amid rising oil prices. While the March sale drew less interest, it still sold 50 percent more acres than the previous lease sale in August 2017 at a significantly lower cost per acre. The suit challenges both the 2018 sales.

In a departure from past practices, BOEM is now offering essentially all available, unleased acreage in the Gulf that is not subject to a congressional moratorium (i.e. everything but the continental shelf off the Florida coast). The effect is to reduce competition for available blocks and to allow fossil fuel companies to acquire and hoard leases at rock bottom prices.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., challenges BOEM’s flawed analyses of the sales’ environmental effects, charging that they rely on incorrect assumptions about the safety regulations and royalty rates that would apply to the leases. BOEM based several of its conclusions on Obama-era policies, including the Clean Power Plan and the Well Control Rule, which the Trump administration is now rolling back or eliminating. Additionally, the lawsuit charges that BOEM significantly underestimates the degree to which each lease sale would affect overall oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico and the effects on global climate change.

“With these massive lease sales in the Gulf, the Trump administration is holding up President Obama’s policies with one hand to claim the environment and worker safety won’t be compromised, while slashing those same policies with the other hand and aggressively attempting to expand drilling,” said Chris Eaton, attorney at Earthjustice's Oceans Program. “Trump can’t have it both ways.”

Our clients Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club

89.Science Defense FOIADetails
U.S. EPA fails to respond to Freedom of Information Act request to release documents about the Censored Science proposal. Rule would prohibit agency's use of peer reviewed scientific studies that have long been relied on to protect health and safety of the public. Aug. 7, 2018: FOIA lawsuit filed.

On behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to release documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act related to a proposed EPA rule that would prohibit the agency's use of peer reviewed scientific studies that have long been relied on to protect the health and safety of millions of Americans.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

Earlier this year, Environmental Defense Fund filed two FOIA requests about a proposed rule issued by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The rule would bar the agency from considering key public health studies when making decisions about vital protections for human health and the environment.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has not withdrawn this harmful Censored Science proposal, despite calls to do so from public health experts, leading scientists, environmental advocates, and many other concerned Americans.

The protections at stake include limits on arsenic in drinking water, efforts to reduce deadly air pollution, and measures to address emerging contaminants like persistent PFAS’s, which are present in the drinking water of communities across the country and are associated with cancer.

EPA’s statutory deadline for responding to the FOIA requests has long since passed, but EPA has failed to release the documents — documents that could shed light on the process and rationale behind the proposal. The limited information currently available indicates that Pruitt was attempting to unilaterally implement a policythat had repeatedly failed to pass Congress, and was attempting to bypass standard interagency review.

“EPA’s Censored Science proposal would allow the agency to ignore credible science under the guise of increasing transparency,” said Alexis Andiman, attorney at Earthjustice's Sustainable Food & Farming Program. “The public has a right to know the origins of this strategy, which has long been championed by tobacco companies, major polluters, and industry-aligned politicians.”

Our client Environmental Defense Fund

90.Immigration Detention Hazards FOIA
U.S. Air Force and Army fail to make an expedited release of information in response to our Freedom of Information Act request concerning the immigration detention camps that the Trump administration plans to construct on Fort Bliss Army Base and Goodfellow Air Force Base. The bases contain toxic waste sites and other hazards which could cause serious harm to human health. Aug. 31, 2018: FOIA lawsuit filed.
91.GRAS Rule ChallengeDetails
The “generally recognized as safe” loophole allows manufacturers to decide for and by themselves — in secret — what can be added to processed foods. An estimated 3,000 chemicals that have never been scrutinized by the Food & Drug Administration are currently in use. Sept. 12, 2018: Opposition's motion to dismiss denied.

Consumer, health, and food safety groups are challenging a Food and Drug Administration rule that undermines the integrity of our food safety system. Chemical and food manufacturers often seek to add chemicals to processed food, typically to enhance flavor, add nutrients, or prevent spoilage. Chemicals also often leach into foods from processing equipment and packaging. While Congress has required that FDA itself determine that chemical additives are safe before they can be used in food, the FDA rule allows manufacturers to decide for and by themselves — in secret — what can be added to processed foods. The groups assert this rule is unconstitutional and illegal.

The public expects, and the law demands, that FDA ensure the safety of Americans’ food. Center for Food Safety and Environmental Defense Fund — represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice — are suing the agency for illegally delegating that authority to self-interested food and chemical manufacturers. They also allege that, while Congress mandates an open and public process, FDA allows manufacturers to make these decisions about food additives without any disclosure to either FDA or the public. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Federal law requires FDA to ensure that substances used in food are safe, taking into account consumers’ entire diet and all exposure to the chemical and similar chemicals. But any substance designated as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by FDA or by a food or chemical company can bypass the rigorous pre-market review and approval process applied to food additives. The GRAS exemption was initially created to cover ingredients that are widely known to be safe, such as vegetable oil, but has been applied in recent practice to novel chemicals and is now a loophole that has swallowed the law.

Under pressure from industry, in 1997 and again in 2016, FDA adopted a practice that allows food and chemical manufacturers to decide for themselves, without notice to FDA or the public, that food chemicals are safe — even if the chemicals are new, not widely studied, and not widely accepted as safe. CFS filed suit in 2014 to challenge FDA’s use of an interim rule that initially put this practice into place. That successful challenge forced FDA to stop using the interim rule and instead finalize the GRAS rule. The lawsuit challenges the final rule that formalizes this practice.

Independent watchdogs have criticized the GRAS system for being rife with industry conflicts of interest because the vast majority of GRAS determinations are made by either the manufacturers themselves or their hired consultants. Moreover, the current system that allows secret GRAS determinations makes it nearly impossible for FDA or manufacturers to assess the cumulative effect of all similar chemicals on consumers — as the law requires.

The GRAS exception is overwhelming the food safety system. An independent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that almost all new chemicals added to food over the last decade were deemed by manufacturers to be “generally recognized as safe.” Today, an estimated 3,000 chemicals that have never been scrutinized by the FDA are in use.

“The secretive GRAS system makes it impossible for the FDA to carry out its core responsibility to the public to ensure our food is safe,” said Peter Lehner, senior strategic advisor at Earthjustice and the head of the Sustainable Food & Farming Program. “By caving to industry pressure with this illegal GRAS rule, the FDA is letting down consumers and compromising public health.”

Our clients Center for Food Safety, Environmental Defense Fund

92.CAFO Air Reporting FOIADetails
To compel the disclosure of public records that could shed light on the U.S. EPA’s decision to exempt all “farms,” including “concentrated animal feeding operations,” from notifying authorities and communities when they release dangerous quantities of toxic gases. Sept. 14, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

On behalf of Waterkeeper Alliance and Sierra Club, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to compel the disclosure of public records that could shed light on the EPA’s decision to exempt all “farms,” including “concentrated animal feeding operations,” from notifying authorities and communities when they release dangerous quantities of toxic gases.

Concentrated animal feeding operations, also known as CAFOs, are industrial facilities that confine hundreds, thousands, or even millions of animals. Together, these animals generate a staggering quantity of urine and feces. For example, in North Carolina, CAFOs confine more than 9.7 million pigs, which produce over 9.5 billion gallons of urine and feces each year. This is more than 500 times as much waste as is generated by the entire population of Washington, D.C. Unlike cities, CAFOs do not treat or disinfect waste prior to disposal. Instead, many CAFOs store animal urine and feces in vast uncovered pits, before spreading it across fields for disposal as “fertilizer.” As animal waste decomposes, it emits toxic gases, including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.

CAFO workers have died as a result of exposure to toxic gases from animal waste.  And scientific evidence shows that people living in communities near CAFOs are more likely to suffer a range of negative health consequences, including premature death

Federal law requires any facility that releases dangerous quantities of toxic gases to warn authorities and communities. In April 2017, in response to an Earthjustice lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that EPA lacks authority to exempt CAFOs from this reporting requirement. But, only six months after the court’s ruling, EPA published a new “guidance,” again exempting CAFOs from reporting their toxic releases, this time under a new legal basis. Earthjustice, Waterkeeper, and Sierra Club requested records related to the new exemption under the Freedom of Information Act — and EPA failed to respond within the time allowed by law.

“As the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence make clear, CAFOs pose a serious risk to surrounding communities,” said Alexis Andiman, attorney with Earthjustice’s Sustainable Food & Farming Program. “EPA must come clean about the origins of its decision to put people at risk by exempting CAFOs from pollution reporting requirements that apply to all similar industrial facilities.”

Our clients Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club

93.San Joaquin Valley PM2.5 SIP DeadlineDetails
U.S. EPA fails to enforce Clean Air Act deadlines for the submission of State Implementation Plans to meet fine particle pollution (PM2.5) pollution standards in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The region’s air is the most toxic in the state. Oct. 24, 2018: Court orders U.S. EPA to enforce deadlines.

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on Sept. 24 against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to enforce deadlines for the submission of clean-air plans in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The lawsuit maintains that the EPA ignored its duty under the Clean Air Act to issue a finding that both the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the California Air Resources Board failed to submit four overdue plans to meet particle pollution standards, including standards set over 20 years ago.

Four of the nation’s six dirtiest cities for both long-term and short-term particle pollution are found within California’s San Joaquin Valley, according to a report by the American Lung Association. Fine particle pollution (PM2.5) can penetrate deep into the lungs, enter the bloodstream and is correlated with higher incidences of asthma, heart disease, heart attack and premature death. For 30 years, the Valley Air District has failed to meet deadlines set by the federal Clean Air Act. The Valley remains the only region in the nation listed as in serious non-attainment for fine particle pollution standards set it 1997.

A month after the lawsuit was filed, on Oct. 24, the District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the EPA to enforce deadlines for air standards in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

“Other parts of the country have made significant progress to improve their air quality and make their communities healthy places to live,” said Colin O’Brien, staff attorney at Earthjustice's California Regional Office. “By contrast, the Valley Air District and state officials have acted too slowly and done too little to address severe and dangerous air quality and EPA has been complicit in their foot-dragging. This lawsuit against EPA seeks to enforce a Clean Air Act deadline provision that operates as a backstop against perpetual delay.”

Our clients Committee for a Better Arvin, Committee for a Better Shafter, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, National Parks Conservation Association

94.RCRA Public Participation Rule, Oklahoma Program
To block U.S. EPA from transferring federal oversight over disposal of toxic coal ash in Oklahoma to the state. Mar. 15, 2019: Motion for Summary Judgment filed.
95.EPA CAFO Air Reporting Interpretation
U.S. EPA "Guidance" illegally exempts all Animal Feeding Operations from reporting their toxic air emissions under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Sept. 28, 2018: Lawsuit filed.
96.BLM Methane Rule Rescission
Bureau of Land Management unlawfully revokes commonsense, reasonable protections designed to limit waste of natural gas by oil and gas companies on federal public and Indian lands resulting from venting, flaring, and equipment leaks. Sept. 28, 2018: Lawsuit filed.
97.U.S. EPA Phase I Coal Ash Rollback Rule
Challenging a rule designed to gut coal ash disposal regulations that provide environmental safeguards for communities living near toxic coal ash waste dumps. Mar. 13, 2019: D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals order issued.
98.Cement Kilns
Challenging U.S. EPA's "risk and technology review" of its air toxics standards for cement plants. The plants emit vast quantities of hazardous air pollutants. Sept. 21, 2018: Petition to review filed to D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
99.Dusky Shark FOIA
Compelling National Marine Fisheries Service under the Freedom of Information Act to release records related to the agency's approval of measures intended to stop overfishing and to rebuild the dusky shark population. Mar. 21, 2018: FOIA complaint filed.
100.Atlantic SeismicDetails
National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, when it issued Incidental Harassment Authorizations in late November. Dec. 11, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

Earthjustice, alongside leading environmental groups sued, the federal government on Dec. 11 to prevent seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. This extremely loud and dangerous process, which is used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean’s surface, is the first step toward offshore drilling. If allowed, seismic airgun blasting would harm marine life, including whales, dolphins, fish and zooplankton — the foundation of the ocean food web.

The lawsuit, filed in South Carolina, claims that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) in late November. Those permits authorize five companies to harm or harass marine mammals while conducting seismic airgun blasting in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Cape May, New Jersey to Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

The government has estimated that seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could harass or harm marine mammals like dolphins and whales — which depend on sound to feed, mate and communicate — hundreds of thousands of times. Seismic airgun blasting would also jeopardize the iconic North Atlantic right whale, a critically endangered species, according to 28 leading right whale experts.

“Seismic airgun surveys pose a dual threat to the biologically rich waters off the Atlantic coast,” said Steve Mashuda, managing attorney for oceans at Earthjustice. “Their continuous blasts can injure and deafen whales, dolphins and other marine life, and they are the sonic harbingers of even greater risks associated with offshore oil and gas drilling.”

Our clients Sierra Club, and Surfrider Foundation. Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Southern Environmental Law Center are co-counsels.

101.Fairbanks PM2.5 Nonattainment SIP Round IIIDetails
Fairbanks North Star Borough has the worst episodes of fine particulate matter air pollution in the nation, but U.S. EPA has yet to take adequate action. Dec. 14, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

Earthjustice, on behalf of Citizens for Clean Air, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, and the Sierra Club, filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for missing a fourth deadline in four years for addressing Fairbanks’s air pollution problem. The EPA had failed to respond to a notice of intent to sue filed 60 days prior.

With no response at all from the EPA and an ongoing lack of action from the State of Alaska, the groups have filed suit to force the agency to meet its obligations under the law. The EPA should have required the Fairbanks North Star Borough to address its pollution controls after its repeated failure to meet basic clean air standards.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough has the worst fine particulate matter air pollution in the nation — with levels spiking far in excess of the next most-polluted area and over twice the recommended limit for unhealthy air. The air pollution problems have worsened since 2009, when state and municipal officials were first advised that soot and smoke levels in Fairbanks were unhealthy and dangerous.

The type of fine particulate matter pollution prevalent in Fairbanks — 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter — has been found to cause a wide range of serious health problems, including asthma attacks, chronic respiratory disease, reduction in lung function, hospitalizations and emergency room visits for cardiopulmonary diseases, cancer, and even premature death. Fine particulate matter air pollution is a particular danger to children, reducing lung development, causing asthma, and impairing the immune system. The elderly and those with chronic disease also face heightened risks.

Sources of PM-2.5 in Fairbanks include outdoor burning; wood- and coal-burning heating devices; automobiles and other vehicles; and coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities.

This is the fourth lawsuit Citizens for Clean Air, ACAT, and the Sierra Club have brought against the EPA for its failure to require Fairbanks to achieve compliance with air quality standards within six years after receiving a nonattainment designation, as mandated by the Clean Air Act. Citizens for Clean Air is a coalition of local community groups and individuals that has been leading the fight to improve Fairbank’s air quality.

In April 2014, the groups sued EPA for failing to move the state planning process for cleaning Fairbank’s air forward as the state repeatedly missed deadlines under the act. This helped prompt the State of Alaska to submit an overdue plan to address air pollution to EPA at the end of January 2015.

In June of 2016, the groups sued EPA for its failure to approve or disapprove the state’s plan by the statutory deadline. Later in 2016, the groups sued to compel the agency to perform its duty under the Clean Air Act to determine that the Fairbanks North Star Borough had failed to reach air quality standards and to reclassify the borough as seriously out of compliance and thus subject to stricter pollution controls. In response to this suit, EPA reclassified the Borough as a serious non-attainment area, triggering an obligation for the state to impose stricter pollution requirements. But the EPA has not taken the necessary steps to ensure that action is taken at any level to alleviate the pollution, and the state once more missed its deadline for developing a plan of action.

The groups now seek to compel EPA to perform its duty to find that Alaska has failed to submit a serious non-attainment area plan. This finding will set a deadline for the state to submit its plan. If the state fails to do so, the EPA could prepare a federal plan and must impose heightened permitting requirements for new pollution sources and other sanctions, and bring long overdue relief to the residents of Fairbanks.

Citizens for Clean Air, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, and the Sierra Club filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (home to EPA’s regional headquarters).

“The Clean Air Act sets clear deadlines for planning and achieving compliance with air quality standards,” said Jeremy Lieb, Associate Attorney at Earthjustice. “The EPA and the state have repeatedly missed these deadlines, showing disregard for the health consequences of continued serious air pollution. We will continue to take legal action necessary to hold the agencies to their obligations to clean up the air in Fairbanks.”

Our clients Citizens for Clean Air, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Sierra Club

102.Liberty Prospect Offshore Oil and Gas DevelopmentDetails
Administration's approval of Hilcorp’s Liberty Project — to build and operate an artificial drilling island and underwater pipeline, risking oil spills in the Beaufort Sea and threatening polar bears and Arctic communities — violated federal law. Dec. 17, 2018: Lawsuit filed.

Earthjustice, on behalf of conservation groups, filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s approval of the first offshore oil drilling development in federal Arctic waters. Hilcorp Alaska received approval in October to build and operate the controversial Liberty project, an artificial drilling island and underwater pipeline that risks oil spills in the sensitive Beaufort Sea and threatens polar bears and Arctic communities.

Construction of the Liberty project has already been delayed by a lack of stable shoreline sea ice in the rapidly warming Arctic region. The past five years have been the hottest on record, the administration announced a few weeks prior to the lawsuit filing, as the Arctic heats up at twice the global warming rate. Climate change is driven by excessive fossil fuel consumption.

The Liberty project involves construction of a nine-acre artificial island with a 24-acre footprint in about 20 feet of water and a 5.6-mile pipeline under Arctic waters to send the oil into onshore pipelines.

The Trump administration has proposed drastically expanding offshore oil leasing in the Arctic and other U.S. oceans and relaxing offshore drilling safety regulations adopted in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The administration plans to offer another lease sale in the Beaufort Sea in 2019.

Concerns about Hilcorp’s ability to build and manage the project were heightened last year when its underwater gas pipeline in Alaska’s Cook Inlet leaked for nearly four months because the company said the presence of sea ice prevented its repair. Earlier this month, a Hilcorp contract oil worker died in an accident on Alaska’s North Slope and there was an oil spill from one of the company’s wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hilcorp has been the most heavily fined oil company in Alaska in recent years, with state regulators writing “disregard for regulatory compliance is endemic to Hilcorp's approach to its Alaska operations.”

“When it rubber-stamped this project, the administration illegally failed to take a hard look at the consequences it will bring for imperiled polar bears,” said Rebecca Noblin, staff attorney with Earthjustice. “It misled the public about this project’s contribution to climate change. According to the agency’s fuzzy math, drilling for oil will actually reduce climate change.”

Our clients Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife, Pacific Environment

103.Bad Neighbor Rule
Challenging U.S. EPA's attempt to avoid controlling interstate air pollution in the eastern half of the United States that causes or worsens violations of the 2008 health-based air quality standard for ozone. Jan. 31, 2019: Petition to review filed to D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
104.Vigneto 404 Permit
Challenging Army Corps' decision to approve a Clean Water Act section 404 permit for a large proposed development in the middle San Pedro River watershed, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act. Jan. 31: Complaint filed.
105.South Florida Dredging FOIA
Challenging U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' failure to respond to a FOIA request for documents relating to dredging and expansion projects for Port Miami and Port Everglades. Dec. 21, 2018: FOIA complaint filed.
106.West Coast Anchovy Catch Limits
The Fisheries Service has avoided using the best available science to establish catch limits for the central sub-population of northern anchovy — a critically important food fish for larger ocean predators including whales, sea lions, salmon, and brown pelicans. Feb. 25, 2019: Court orders NMFS to promulgate a new federal rule establishing a new catch limit for northern anchovy that complies with the U.S. fisheries management law — the Magnuson-Stevens Act — to prevent overfishing.
107.2019 Renewable Fuel Standard Rule
Challenging U.S. EPA's failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, and Administrative Procedure Act. Clear, reliable evidence shows that the total renewable fuel volumes contained in the Rule will result in destruction of wildlife and wildlife habitat as well as severe environmental harms. Feb. 11, 2019: Petition for review filed.
108.Methylene ChlorideDetails
U.S. EPA failed to ban the commercial and consumer use of methylene chloride, a highly lethal chemical in paint strippers. More than 50 people have died from exposure to methylene chloride paint strippers. Feb. 19, 2019: Complaint filed.

Latino workers represented by Earthjustice, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, sued the Trump administration over its failure to ban the commercial and consumer use of methylene chloride, a highly lethal chemical in paint strippers. More than 50 people have already died from exposure to methylene chloride paint strippers, most of whom were workers exposed on the job.

Acute exposure to methylene chloride can cause asphyxiation, heart failure, and sudden death, while long-term exposure increases risks of cancer, liver disease, and other serious health effects. In January 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that methylene chloride presents unreasonable risks to workers, consumers, and bystanders and proposed to ban its use in paint strippers. Since then, at least four more people — including two workers — have died from methylene chloride exposure. Despite repeated promises, the Trump administration has failed to finalize the proposed ban.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency knows that methylene chloride is killing workers, and it knows that only a ban will protect them,” said Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, attorney with Earthjustice. “If more than 50 coroner's reports are not enough to get EPA to ban one of the most dangerous chemicals on the market, what is?”

Our client Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

109.NPR-A 2018–19 Winter ExplorationDetails
Challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of ConocoPhillips’ winter exploratory drilling program in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, America’s single largest area of public lands. Mar. 1, 2019: Complaint filed.

The Native Village of Nuiqsut tribal government and five conservation groups have challenged the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of ConocoPhillips’ winter exploratory drilling program in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, America’s single largest area of public lands. Earthjustice filed the lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the Native Village and other clients. ConocoPhillips’ exploration would involve construction of nearly 70 miles of ice roads and up to 23 ice pads along with the drilling of six new exploratory wells in the federal Reserve immediately adjacent to the community of Nuiqsut.

BLM officials signed off on the drilling program in late 2018 without preparing an environmental impact statement. This drilling program significantly expands industrial activity in and around the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, identified by Congress for maximum protection because it includes some of the most important migratory bird habitat in the world and is home to the Teshekpuk Caribou Herd.

This herd has long been an important part of the culture and economy for the Iñupiat people of Nuiqsut. Indigenous subsistence hunting is vital to the village of Nuiqsut, where for generations hunters have tracked and hunted caribou, which range in the tens of thousands in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area. But the herd has declined 40 percent over the past decade, as industrial activity has intruded into its range.

In the lawsuit, the Native Village of Nuiqsut and conservation group plaintiffs argue that BLM erred in deciding to forego a full environmental impact statement. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that BLM’s Finding of No Significant Impact is in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Ice roads and infrastructure, and their associated vehicular and air traffic, are displacing caribou from their traditional overwintering grounds, which can affect their calving success and survival and harm traditional hunting practices. The Teshekpuk Caribou Herd is the only Alaskan caribou herd that remains in the Arctic over winter, making this herd vulnerable to winter fossil fuel activities.

The people of Nuiqsut are already feeling the growing impacts of the oil and gas activities that surround their community, and ConocoPhillips’ winter drilling plans will only compound these cumulative impacts. Before proceeding, BLM failed to do the required assessment of all these effects or to consider any options for reducing impacts.

The exploratory drilling program is forcing hunters and trappers to travel further and making it more difficult to pass on traditional hunting practices to their children. As part of its massive oil program, ConocoPhillips is also operating gravel mines around Nuiqsut.

Our clients Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Native Village of Nuiqsut, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club

110.San Pedro River FOIA
Challenging the Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Department’s violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The agencies have ignored requests on information, that should be publicly available, on potential settlement talks between the federal government and others for water rights in the San Pedro River. Mar. 4, 2019: Complaint filed.
111.Gulf of Mexico 2019 Lease SalesDetails
Challenging an oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico that will open up more than 78 million acres to offshore drilling without fully analyzing the risks to people, wildlife or the environment. Mar. 13, 2019: Complaint filed.

Earthjustice, on behalf of Healthy Gulf (f.k.a. Gulf Restoration Network), the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, sued the Trump administration to challenge an oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico that will open up more than 78 million acres to offshore drilling without fully analyzing the risks to people, wildlife or the environment. The lawsuit follows the Department of the Interior’s announcement that it will hold its next lease sale on March 20.

The agency is offering essentially all available, unleased acreage in the Gulf that is not subject to a congressional moratorium — everything but the continental shelf off the Florida coast.

This lease sale would be the largest ever offered for oil and gas development in U.S. history, with even more acres open than sales in August and March 2018. Both earlier sales also face legal challenge by the same plaintiff groups. The judge is expected to rule in that case as early as this summer.

In a departure from past practices, Interior has been offering essentially all available, un-leased acreage in the Gulf that is not subject to a congressional moratorium against leasing (i.e. everything but the continental shelf off Florida.) The effect is to reduce competition for available blocks and to allow fossil fuel companies to acquire and hoard leases at rock-bottom prices.

At the same time, Interior has been taking action to put the Gulf coasts at greater risk for an oil spill or other catastrophic event. The Department is in the process of rolling back critical safety measures put into place after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In the meantime, it has granted nearly 2,000 waivers to oil and gas companies to exempt them from compliance with safety measures that are currently in place.

This lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., challenges Interior’s flawed analyses of the sales’ environmental effects, which rely on incorrect assumptions about the safety regulations and royalty rates that would apply to the leases.

Interior based several of its conclusions on Obama-era policies, including the Well Control Rule, which the Trump administration is now rolling back or eliminating. Additionally, the lawsuit charges that Interior significantly underestimates the degree to which each lease sale would affect overall oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Trump administration is barreling ahead with expanded oil and gas drilling in our oceans, while simultaneously erasing critical protections that protect Gulf coasts and giving oil and gas companies a pass from complying with existing safety requirements,” said Brettny Hardy, Earthjustice attorney. “This is just a recipe for disaster.”

Our clients Center for Biological Diversity, Healthy Gulf (f.k.a. Gulf Restoration Network), Sierra Club

112.Border Wall Emergency DeclarationDetails
Challenging the president’s attempt to declare a state of national emergency to build additional miles of border wall. The lawsuit alleges that the wall would have “real and dire impacts for communities living along the border,” including potential exhumation and desecration of border families’ loved ones’ remains at the 145-year-old Eli Jackson Ranch Church and Cemetery in Texas. Mar. 14, 2019: Complaint filed.

A new lawsuit filed on the heels of broad, bipartisan House and Senate rejection of the president’s attempt to declare a state of national emergency to build additional miles of border wall alleges that the wall would have “real and dire impacts for communities living along the border,” including potential exhumation and desecration of border families’ loved ones’ remains at the 154-year-old Eli Jackson Cemetery and the 145-year old Jackson Ranch Church and Cemetery in Texas.

Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Ramirez family of San Juan, Texas, who own the property where the Jackson Ranch Cemetery is located, the Carrizo / Comecrudo Nation of Texas, whose ancestors inhabited the Rio Grande Valley for centuries and whose sacred cultural and burial sites would be threatened by new sections of President Trump’s border wall targeted for construction, Elsa Hull, a landowner on the border, the Rio Grande International Study Center and a number of local and national leaders representing affected communities.

The Rio Grande binds two countries and cultures and is the only source of drinking water for an estimated six million people. Its beautiful landscape serves as a critical wildlife corridor that supports hundreds of species of plants and animals. Experts warn that President Trump’s border wall would destroy ecosystems and cause significant harms to public health in the region.

“The President’s abuse of emergency powers to override the will of Congress is a blatant power grab,” said Sarah Burt, lead attorney for Earthjustice on the case. “It not only goes against our basic form of government, but also harms those who live, work and worship along the border. We’re going to court to stand up for these communities.”

Our clients California Wilderness Coalition, Carrizo / Comecrudo Nation of Texas, GreenLatinos, Elsa Hull, Labor Council For Latin American Advancement, The Ramirez Family, Rio Grande International Study Center

113.National Elk RefugeDetails
Suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over long-overdue plan to prevent chronic wasting disease at National Elk Refuge. Mar. 18, 2019: Complaint filed.

Representing a conservation coalition, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asking a judge to order the agency to issue a long-overdue plan to phase out elk feeding on the Jackson Hole National Elk Refuge. The outdated and unnecessary practice of supplemental feeding threatens to accelerate the spread of wildlife diseases — including lethal chronic wasting disease, which was detected for the first time in Grand Teton National Park, adjacent to the Refuge, last November.

The lawsuit comes after the coalition sent a letter in December 2018 urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to promptly issue a feeding phase-out plan the agency committed to release in 2008, but has delayed for more than ten years due to disagreement between federal and Wyoming officials.

Since December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that chronic wasting disease has spread to 24 states. Chronic wasting disease is now found in every county in Wyoming, and last year the first cases were documented in Montana. In February 2019, the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota warned, “It is probable that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption with contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead.”

At the same time a management plan is being delayed, chronic wasting disease — the elk version of “mad cow disease” — has crept ever closer to the Refuge. A slow, debilitating, and inevitably fatal illness, chronic wasting disease assaults the central nervous systems of elk, deer, and moose, resulting in brain lesions, behavioral changes, a loss of body condition, and always death.

Scientists predict that chronic wasting disease will spread rapidly among elk crowded along feedlines, and widespread infection will also contaminate Refuge soils and vegetation where disease materials would persist to infect more animals for years. The threat reached a new level of urgency in November with the discovery of a mule deer infected with the always-lethal disease in Grand Teton National Park, which is adjacent to the Refuge.

Winter-time feeding of elk on the National Elk Refuge began in 1912 as a means of sustaining elk through the winter season and resolving conflicts with ranchers feeding livestock. More than a century later, the concentration of elk on Refuge feed lines has led to the degradation of habitat and prevents the restoration of historic elk migration patterns in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. More significantly, the unnaturally high concentrations of elk have led to a high prevalence of other diseases including brucellosis and scabies, and a significantly increased threat of an outbreak of lethal chronic wasting disease.

“The National Elk Refuge is supposed to sustain healthy populations of native wildlife, not spread infection of lethal disease,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso. “Yet the crowded conditions on winter-time elk feeding lines threaten to allow lethal disease to spread among the Refuge elk like a cold in a kindergarten classroom.”

Our clients Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Sierra Club

114.Rosemont 404 Permit
Challenging U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to issue Rosemont Copper Company a permit to commence construction of a massive open-pit copper mine on the eastern flank of the Santa Rita Mountains in the Cienega Creek watershed. Apr. 10, 2019: Complaint filed.
115.Flathead National Forest Plan Challenge
Challenging the 2018 Forest Plan for the Flathead National Forest for violating the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act by abandoning longstanding protections for key grizzly bear and bull trout habitat. Apr. 15, 2019: Complaint filed.
116.Methylene Chloride - Worker ExclusionDetails
Challenging U.S. EPA's decision to abandon a proposed ban on commercial uses of lethal methylene chloride paint strippers and to finalize a ban that covers only consumer uses. Apr. 18, 2019: Petition for Review filed.

Latino workers, environmental and public health advocates, and the mothers of two young men who died from methylene chloride exposure sued the Trump administration for excluding workers from a rule banning methylene chloride from use in paint strippers.

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a ban on both commercial and consumer uses of methylene chloride paint strippers in January 2017 — based on the chemical’s unreasonable risks of cancer, heart failure, and sudden death — the Trump administration narrowed that ban to solely consumer uses, leaving thousands of workers at risk.

More than 60 people have died from exposure to methylene chloride paint strippers, most of whom were workers exposed on the job. However, the Trump administration’s rule offers no protection for workers or bystanders exposed to these products from commercial uses.

The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), represented by Earthjustice; the Natural Resources Defense Council; Lauren Atkins; Wendy Hartley; Safer Chemicals Healthy Families; and Vermont Public Interest Research Group filed suit in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit challenging U.S. EPA’s inadequate methylene chloride rule.

“If dozens of confirmed deaths are not enough to get the Trump administration to protect workers from methylene chloride paint strippers, nothing short of a court order will,” said Earthjustice attorney Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz. “There is no law, science or policy behind the exclusion of workers from EPA’s methylene chloride rule. It is a craven and illegal giveaway to companies that want to continue to manufacture and sell deadly paint strippers.”

Our client Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

117.Prince of Wales Timber SaleDetails
Challenging U.S. Forest Service's authorization of the largest logging project in the national forest system in a generation, including thousands of acres of old-growth timber in the Tongass National Forest. May 7, 2019: Lawsuit filed.

The lawsuit says the Forest Service is violating the National Environmental Policy Act and failing to comply with the agency’s own management plan for the Tongass. The massive old-growth and second-growth logging project in America’s largest and wildest national forest will harm habitat and wildlife, hurt the region’s growing tourism industry and reduce people’s outdoor recreational opportunities.

The Forest Service has approved 67 square miles of logging on Prince of Wales Island to be accessed by 164 miles of new roads over a period of 15 years. Though the agency has not yet determined the specific locations of any of this activity, the forest supervisor signed off on the final environmental review for the project in March. Without specific details of the project, the Forest Service cannot adequately assess its impact — and the public cannot meaningfully weigh in as federal law demands.

Prince of Wales Island, the fourth largest island in the United States, is prized by residents and visitors alike for hunting, fishing, recreation, and tourism. The sale includes the logging of up to 23,000 acres of old growth national forest.

The industrial-scale clearcutting of increasingly rare old-growth forest could endanger many species, including several found only on Prince of Wales Island, such as a unique subspecies of flying squirrels. The island is also home to a dwindling population of Alexander Archipelago wolves, which rely on the Tongass for their survival.

If the true impact of this sale were examined and subject to a cost-benefit analysis, it would be exposed as a wasteful, destructive giveaway to a logging industry that supports less than 1 percent of the region’s economy.

“The uninformed approach by the Forest Service — approving this mammoth sale before even figuring out the details — is blatantly unlawful,” said Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo. “This throwback to an old way of doing business is unacceptable and contrary to decades of court decisions.”

Our clients Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Alaska Wilderness League, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Audubon Society, Center for Biological Diversity

118.Ozone Bump-Ups 2019Details
Challenging U.S. EPA over failure to increase protections in communities that have dangerous levels of ozone smog. May 7, 2019: Lawsuit filed.

The communities at issue include the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas; San Diego, Nevada, and Imperial counties, CA; the greater Chicago area; Phoenix, AZ; Baltimore, MD; Sheboygan, WI; the entire state of Connecticut; and the New York City area.

All of these areas and others are subject to Clean Air Act protections because their ozone levels have exceeded the health and ecosystem-protective standards the EPA established in 2008. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was legally obligated to determine by January 20, 2019, whether they had cleaned up their air enough to meet the 2008 standards. Areas that still have dirty air will be subject to stronger protections. But the EPA still has failed to make the required determinations. As a result, more effective protections have yet to go into effect, and community members and natural areas must continue to endure harmful air pollution.

Smog pollution harms human health and the environment in suburban, urban, and rural communities throughout the country. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA has an obligation to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for a number of common air pollutants including ground-level ozone. Ozone-forming pollution is made up of volatile organic compounds which are prevalent in oil, gas and petrochemical development, as well as oxides of nitrogen as a result of burning fossil fuels like coal and fracked gas. Volatile organic compounds include extremely harmful hazardous air pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and toluene. Ground level ozone is a dangerous pollutant that impacts those with upper respiratory issues like asthma, causes premature birth, premature death and impacts the elderly and children significantly.

Reducing smog pollution is also an environmental justice concern, as many sources of ozone-forming pollution are located in low-income communities and communities of color in urban centers and rural areas. For example, in Texas, low-income communities of color along the Houston Ship Channel face extreme pollution burdens from operations relating to petrochemicals and oil refining. Those industries are responsible for large amounts of the smog-forming pollution that affects the entire region. When the EPA takes its legally required action to increase clean air protections in Houston, facilities in the Ship Channel area will face stronger limits on the harmful volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen they generate.

Areas with more severe pollution problems have more time to meet the attainment standards but are subject to tougher emission limitations on new or modified “major sources” of ozone-forming pollution like coal plants, refineries and chemical facilities in addition to better control for emissions from motor vehicles.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is a straightforward deadline suit aimed at forcing EPA to fulfill its overdue duty to issue “attainment determinations” and bump up the classification of areas failing the 2008 standards by a date certain in the near future.

“The EPA’s job under the Clean Air Act here is simple: determine whether these communities continue to violate the 2008 ozone standard. Its inaction is bad for community members, especially children and people with asthma,” said Earthjustice attorney Seth Johnson. “We’re going to court because it’s well past time for the EPA to follow the law and do its job.”

Our clients Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club

119.Raising Shasta DamDetails
Challenging Westlands Water District for unlawfully aiding efforts by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to raise Shasta Dam. May 13, 2019: Lawsuit filed.

Represented by Earthjustice, a coalition of fishing and conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against Westlands Water District for unlawfully aiding efforts by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to raise Shasta Dam.

The destructive project would flood critical parts of the protected McCloud River, located upstream of the dam, harming a prized trout fishery, tribal lands, rare plants and wildlife, as well as endangered Chinook salmon downstream of the dam. The State of California also filed a lawsuit against Westlands.

The lawsuit urges the court to find Fresno-based Westlands in violation of the California Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. A 1989 amendment to that law protects the McCloud River by prohibiting any agency of the State of California from assisting or cooperating with the planning or construction of any dam that could adversely affect the McCloud River’s free-flowing condition or its wild trout fishery.

While efforts to raise Shasta Dam have rumbled for years in the background, the issue was tabled indefinitely during the Obama administration. Under the Trump administration and with Westlands’ former lobbyist as Secretary of the Interior, which oversees Reclamation, the federal government has revived the dam raise project.

Despite the protests of California leaders, the project timeline has been fast-tracked with construction to begin by the end of 2019. Westlands is playing a key role in advancing the project by leading and funding an environmental impact review and negotiating to cover part of the more than $1.4 billion project cost. Westlands is so eager to raise the dam that it even purchased 3,000 acres along the McCloud River to clear the way for the land to be flooded if the dam is raised.

All these actions violate the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

“Neither Westlands nor Trump’s Bureau of Reclamation is above the law,” said Earthjustice attorney Nina Robertson. “Californians spoke when they amended the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to make sure agencies of the state would not help a hostile federal government ram through a project that benefits big, corporate agriculture at the expense of protected rivers, tribes, fisheries, and threatened species.”

Our clients Friends of the River, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council

120.Enefit Oil ShaleDetails
Challenging what would be the nation’s first commercial-scale oil shale mine and processing facility; federal officials failed to protect several endangered species when they approved rights-of-way across public lands. May 16, 2019: Lawsuit filed.

Conservation groups, represented by attorneys from Earthjustice, Grand Canyon Trust, and the Center for Biological Diversity, sued the Trump administration to challenge what would be the nation’s first commercial-scale oil shale mine and processing facility. The lawsuit says officials failed to protect several endangered species when they approved rights-of-way across public lands to provide utilities to the proposed oil shale development.

The massive Enefit project in northeast Utah’s Uintah Basin would also drain billions of gallons of water from the Green River, generate enormous amounts of greenhouse gas pollution and exacerbate the Uintah Basin’s often-dismal air quality.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Utah, argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the law by ignoring the potential harm to endangered fish. In its biological opinion, the agency considered only the harm from water depletions necessary to build the pipeline, not the billions of gallons of Green River water that will be sent through the pipeline to Enefit’s oil shale development.

The Bureau of Land Management also violated the law by failing to adequately analyze the significant environmental impacts of the proposed oil shale development, which likely would not occur but for the agency’s approval of the rights-of-way.

The Trump administration paved the way for the project last year by approving rights-of-way for electricity, oil, gas, and water lines across public lands. At full buildout, the Estonian-owned Enefit American Oil facility would produce 50,000 barrels of oil every day for the next 30 years or more from the Green River Formation.

Huge amounts of water are required in the oil shale production process. The water pipeline will allow Enefit to drain more than 10,000 acre feet annually from the Green River, harming critical habitat for endangered fish, including the Colorado pikeminnow and the razorback sucker. The project comes as Western states struggle with record droughts and climate-driven declines in river flows in the Colorado River Basin.

Enefit intends to strip-mine about 28 million tons of rock a year over thousands of acres of high-desert habitat, generating hundreds of millions of tons of waste rock. It will also construct a half-square-mile processing plant, about 45 miles south of Dinosaur National Monument, to bake the rock at extremely high temperatures to turn pre-petroleum oil shale rock into refinery-ready synthetic crude oil. That will require vast amounts of energy and emit huge amounts of ozone precursors in an area recently listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as not in attainment with healthy ozone standards.

Oil shale is one of world’s most carbon-polluting fuels, with lifecycle carbon emissions up to 75 percent higher than those of conventional fuels.

The project would produce 547 million barrels of oil over three decades, spewing more than 200 million tons of greenhouse gas — as much as 50 coal-fired power plants produce in a year. Those emissions would contribute to global warming and regional drought already afflicting the rivers and their endangered fish.

“We’re going to court to uphold the nation’s environmental laws and save the Upper Colorado River Basin from the devastating effects of oil shale,” said Earthjustice attorney Alex Hardee.

Our clients Living Rivers/Colorado RiverKeeper, Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Waterkeeper. The groups are represented by attorneys from Earthjustice, Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity

121.Well Control Rule RollbackDetails
Challenging the Interior Dept.'s rollback of the 2016 Well Control and Blowout Preventer Rule, a safety regulation meant to prevent another blowout like what happened during the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. June 11, 2019: Lawsuit filed.

Ten environmental groups sued the Trump administration today to challenge rollbacks of the 2016 Well Control and Blowout Preventer Rule, a safety regulation meant to prevent another blowout like what happened during the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The case filed in the Northern District of California challenges key rollbacks to the safety rule including: weakening performance requirements for blowout preventers; eliminating the system of independent safety equipment inspectors; grandfathering existing drilling rigs into outdated blowout preventer standards; slashing safety equipment testing and inspection standards.

This lawsuit is meant to restore the protections put in place after the 2010 BP blowout. The blowout killed 11 men, and resulted in an oil spill that spewed over 130 million gallons of toxic crude into the Gulf, polluting 1,300 miles of shoreline, killing billions of individual species of birds, fish, whales, oysters, and other wildlife decimating the seafood and tourism industries of the Gulf states.

The groups allege that the Department of the Interior disregarded the extensive evidence and expert findings that went into the original rule. They also claim the department failed to consider how the rollbacks could harm offshore safety and the environment, while also violating transparency requirements.

“These rollbacks are a step back to the pre-Deepwater Horizon days when the offshore oil industry largely policed itself to disastrous effect,” said Earthjustice attorney Chris Eaton. “This attempt to roll the dice with offshore safety not only puts workers and our coasts at risk, but violates the law.”

Our clients Healthy Gulf, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth. Southern Environmental Law Center is representing North Carolina Coastal Federation, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League. Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council are also on the lawsuit.

Media Inquiries

Keith Rushing, National Media Strategist
(202) 667-4500, ext. 5236, krushing@earthjustice.org