2018 Earthrise Successes and Challenges
December 14, 2018
Last December we wrote you to explain the challenges we were facing in working to protect the environment under the Trump Administration. This year we can report, unfortunately, that not much has changed. The federal government continues to attempt to rollback environmental protections. And it continues to take unreasonable positions in cases—including refusing to settle even in cases where the government has clearly failed to carry out its duties under bedrock environmental laws. Moreover, the government continues to fight tooth and nail to avoid, or at least significantly delay, paying attorneys’ fees in our cases, even when a court has ruled in our clients’ favor.
This means our cases are dragging on longer than usual. And it will take even longer for Earthrise to recoup any fees for our work. Because attorney fee recovery is the primary way Earthrise is funded, we are more reliant than ever on individual donors like you to carry us through the next few years.
But here’s the good news we can report: even though the battle is tougher, we are still winning. With the help of our determined clients and amazing students, in court case after court case we are holding federal agencies and polluters accountable for their assaults on the environment and this country’s natural resources.
Despite the hurdles we’ve faced, here are just some of our achievements from this past year:
- Secured crucial protections for waters in Massachusetts from stormwater pollution by forcing EPA to abandon its illegal delay in implementing the state’s municipal stormwater permit.
- Achieved a precedent-setting ruling in the District of Columbia allowing greater access to federal courts to citizens challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s program to provide loan assistance to industrial Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
- Successfully sued and forced the Forest Service to produce thousands of records related to an ongoing effort to protect Olympic National Park from excessive noise from overflights by military jets.
- Resolved a long-running lawsuit against EPA regarding Washington’s water quality standards that will require EPA to take action to protect endangered salmon. Washington must also now develop new criteria for fine sediment discharged into streams. These new standards will help wild salmon eggs incubating in gravel beds by ensuring the eggs are getting enough oxygen to survive.
- Filed a Clean Water Act citizen suit against the City of Medford regarding its unlawful pollution discharges to the Rogue River, which have contributed to longstanding detrimental changes to the downstream river ecosystem.
- Successfully challenged Oregon’s “1200-Z” Permit for discharges of stormwater from industrial activity, kicking off a two year process for DEQ to develop first-ever numeric limits for toxic pollutants copper, lead, and zinc applicable to stormwater pollution.
- Successfully contested a Clean Water Act permit for a proposed copper mine in Arizona, forcing a re-write of the permit due to its failure to consider the impacts of the mine’s “new sources” of copper pollution to a stream already impaired by too much copper.
- Obtained a court order requiring Oregon DEQ to address the state’s Clean Water Act permit backlog, which is the worst in the nation for major individual permits. Updating the permits will result in reducing pollution to Oregon’s waters.
- Assisted a coalition of New England public interest groups and individuals in opposing a planned transmission line that would bring electricity from large “megadams” in Canada to Massachusetts. Billed as “clean energy,” this electricity from large hydropower sources actually emits greenhouse gases in the form of methane releases, in addition to exposing Indigenous peoples to unacceptable levels of methylmercury in their traditional food.
- Sued to stop unregulated target shooting in our national forests, which threatens public safety and can cause wildfires. We seek to enforce a prohibition on unrestricted target shooting in the Los Padres National Forest’s management plan.
Clean water. Clean air. Old growth trees. A livable climate. Are these too much to ask for? 2018 is the 50-year anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act—landmark legislation passed by a Congress that was still willing to work in a bipartisan way to protect the environment. Such a Congress no longer exists today. So Earthrise’s specialty—litigation in federal court—is needed now more than ever to act as a check against those who would deprive this generation and those that follow of basic environmental rights. Your support will allow us to continue to take on this administration, achieve great results for the environment, and provide excellent learning opportunities for students, so that they too can join the fight when they graduate.
Please include a tax-deductible donation to Earthrise in your year-end giving. Even better, please consider becoming a monthly Earthrise donor to help level out our funding stream in these challenging times. Thank you.
With warm wishes for the holidays and the New Year,
Allison LaPlante, Clinic Co-Director
Tom Buchele, Clinic Co-Director