December 18, 2019

2019 In Review

Dear Friend,

This year the environmental movement has been defined by youth. On September 20th, students from around the world left school to take to the streets, demanding action on climate change. Kelsey Juliana, Olivia Chernaik, and others have taken the United States and the State of Oregon to court over the governments’ failures to protect the planet. Autumn Peltier, at the age of 14, is making headlines by fighting for water conservation and Indigenous water rights. And Greta Thunberg is now a household name.

Earthrise is different from most legal organizations working to protect the environment because Earthrise also is dedicated to helping our youth turn their environmental protection ideals into careers as legal advocates for the environment. At Earthrise, we believe training the next generation of advocates is just as important as the work we do to protect the environment. Law students work side-by-side with Earthrise lawyers on every step of litigation. We teach students how to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real world environmental problems. We entrust students with important responsibilities in our cases—and they rise to the challenge time and time again. Here is what two current students had to say:

“Being able to help develop the Salt Ponds case from the very beginning was a tremendous opportunity to grow as a lawyer-in-training. The amount of trust I was given to investigate the claims, to help with drafting the complaint, and to communicate with our client, San Francisco Baykeeper, allowed me to develop practical and creative environmental litigation skills. With only 10% of the San Francisco Bay’s natural wetlands now remaining, the opportunity to fight for this protection has shown me how necessary and urgent this work is.” – Audrey Leonard, Class of 2020

“Working on the Glen Canyon case was, without a doubt, a highlight of my law school career. Although I often felt challenged throughout various phases of the case’s development, I knew that I was supported by the Earthrise team. I feel incredibly fortunate that I was able to directly contribute to efforts to protect and restore an integral part of the American Southwest. Glen Canyon’s chapter in the American environmental movement is far from over. I am excited to watch as Earthrise students continue to ardently advocate for its protection.” – Jesse Caldwell, Class of 2020

We are incredibly grateful for the work our students do. Indeed, we could not bring as many cases, or have as great an environmental impact, without the help of dedicated students like Audrey and Jesse. But it’s not just their work at Earthrise that makes us proud; our students continue to shine after they graduate. Over the last 24 years, we have trained more than 400 students who have gone on to be leaders and advocates at nonprofits, environmental firms, and government agencies.

With the help of these amazing students, and our determined clients, in court case after court case we are holding federal agencies and polluters accountable for their assaults on the environment. Here are just some of our achievements from this past year:

  • Negotiated a settlement, along with our co-counsel at Kampmeier and Knutsen, in a case against Cooke Aquaculture arising from the company’s catastrophic net pen collapse that released 260,000 non-native salmon into Puget Sound; achieved an order requiring engineering upgrades for Cooke’s other net pens in the Sound and payment of $1.15 million dollars toward projects to improve the water quality and aquatic habitat of Puget Sound.
  • Won a long-running case, with our co-counsel Bryan Telegin, to improve Oregon’s water pollution clean-up plans (also called TMDLs) for many of Oregon’s over-heated rivers; achieved an order putting Oregon and EPA on a timely schedule to re-do the state’s illegal temperature TMDLs, which will improve habitat for cold-water fish like salmon.
  • Filed a lawsuit against the managers of the Glen Canyon Dam because their most recent operating plan failed to consider the most likely impacts from climate change and refused to consider an alternative that would lead to breaching the dam and restoring Glen Canyon.
  • Filed a new case against the Trump Administration for its arbitrary and unlawful determination that San Francisco Bay’s salt ponds are not protected by the Clean Water Act.
  • Achieved an important interim settlement in our case against the City of Medford that will result in greater water quality protections for the Rogue River in Oregon.
  • Negotiated a settlement, along with our co-counsel at Environmental Defense Center, with the Forest Service that has kept the Los Padres National Forest closed to unrestricted target shooting for all of 2019.
  • Sued the Navy under FOIA and forced the Navy to produce thousands of records that Earthrise needed to complete comments on the Navy’s latest NEPA analysis for its training flights over Olympic National Park, one of the quietest places in the country.
  • Submitted extensive comments on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit for a proposed transmission line through Maine that would transmit electricity from Megadams in Canada that, in addition to being environmentally destructive, also increase the exposure of Indigenous communities to methylmercury poisoning.

Earthrise’s specialties—litigation in federal court and training environmental advocates—are 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.

Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to Earthrise in your year-end giving. 

With warm wishes for the holidays and the New Year, 


Allison LaPlante                                             Tom Buchele

Clinic Co-Director                                          Clinic Co-Director