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Our Campaigns

Environment America Litigation Project

Goal: Protect the water we drink, the air we breathe and the places we love in the court of law.
For 30 years, our litigation team has taken polluters directly to court under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other environmental laws, winning more than $250 million in court-ordered penalties and pollution-reducing actions.
We also work to hold the government accountable when it fails to enforce the law, or when it weakens key environmental protections.
We’re prepared to bring more cases in defense of our air, our water and the people and wildlife that depend on them.
  • <h4>v. EXXONMOBIL</h4><h5>After we filed suit, a federal judge ordered Exxon to pay a $14.25 million fine for committing 16,386 days of violation of the Clean Air Act at the company’s Baytown, Texas, refinery and chemical plant complex.</h5><em>Roy Luck via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0</em>
  • <h4>v. PILGRIM'S PRIDE</h4><h5>The world’s second-largest chicken producer agreed to upgrade its equipment and pay a penalty after we filed suit against the company for polluting Florida’s Suwannee River.</h5><em>Joe Matos</em>
  • <h4>v. ARCELORMITTAL</h4><h5>After the world’s largest steel company showered Pittsburgh-area neighborhoods with soot, acidic gases and noxious odors, our legal action led the firm to agree to pay a $1.5 million penalty and upgrade pollution controls. </h5><em>Khaetlyn Grindell</em>
  • <h4>v. CASELLA WASTE SYSTEMS</h4><h5>A trash hauler’s landfill contaminated Massachusetts drinking water supplies with a suspected carcinogen and heavy metals. We’re seeking an injunction requiring the company to contain the pollution.</h5><em></em>
  • <h4>v. U.S. EPA</h4><h5>We’re party to a lawsuit seeking to force the agency to regulate the intake of cooling water at large power and manufacturing plants, a practice that kills billions of fish and other organisms.</h5><em>USFWS, CC-BY-2.0</em>
From the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast

Across the country, numerous companies continue to dump far more pollution than the law allows into our air and water. These polluters have exposed the people who live nearby to pollutants that cause cancer, trigger asthma attacks, disrupt the body’s hormone system, and cut lives short. They have harmed wildlife, and degraded their habitat.

And yet in these cases, state and local government officials have done nothing, or too little too late, to stop the pollution and hold the polluters accountable.

Fortunately, the law gives citizens a chance to act directly to stop the pollution. Under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other environmental laws, citizens are empowered to file suit against violators.

Acting on behalf of citizens, and often working in tandem with other national and local environmental groups, our litigation team has done just that. Together, we’ve won more than $250 million in court-ordered penalties and pollution-reducing actions, from San Francisco Bay to Boston Harbor, from the Great Lakes to the neighborhoods abutting the nation’s largest chemical refineries in Texas.

Recent citizen enforcement cases

In the past year, our lawyers have focused on these major cases:

  • Two cases, one against ExxonMobil and one against a subsidiary of Petrobras, the Brazilian oil company, for thousands of Clean Air Act violations at their Texas refineries. In April 2017, a federal judge ordered Exxon to pay a $14.25 million fine, believed to be the largest civil penalty ever imposed in an environmental citizen suit, for committing 16,386 days of violation of the Clean Air Act at the company’s Baytown, Texas, refinery and chemical plant complex. U.S. District Judge David Hittner found that Exxon profited by more than $14 million by delaying implementation of necessary pollution control measures, and released more than 10 million pounds of illegal air emissions. ExxonMobil has appealed the decision.
  • Against Pilgrim’s Pride, the world’s second-largest chicken producer, for polluting Florida’s Suwannee River. In November 2017, the company reached an agreement to make equipment upgrades, investigate the possibility of eliminating or significantly reducing all discharges to the Suwannee River, and pay what is believed to be the largest Clean Water Act penalty in a citizen enforcement suit in Florida history.
  • Against ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, for showering Pittsburgh-area neighborhoods with emissions of soot, acidic gases and noxious odors. In December 2017, the company agreed to pay a $1.5 million penalty (another state record) and spend an estimated $2 million on air pollution controls.
  • Against Casella Waste Systems, a trash hauler with operations in 40 states, for landfill pollution that has contaminated Massachusetts drinking water supplies with heavy metals and a suspected carcinogen. We’re seeking an injunction that would require Casella to contain or remediate the pollution, hook up residents’ homes to a clean water supply, and obtain a Clean Water Act discharge permit or stop its discharges to the wetlands, and an order directing Casella to pay a civil penalty for the company’s Clean Water Act violations.
Florida's Suwannee River, protected by our legal action.
Ebyabe via Wikimedia, CC-BY-2.5
Defending our environmental protections

Since taking office, President Trump has worked to turn back the clock to when environmental protection was an afterthought — not the foundation for a better quality of life and a brighter future.

His administration has sought to dismantle limits on global warming pollution from power plants, cars and trucks, to roll back the rules that protect our waterways from pollution, and other actions that will result in dirtier air and water, degraded public lands, and a more rapidly warming planet.

Environment America is participating in lawsuits against the Trump administration to block these reckless rollbacks.

Recent environmental defense cases

In the past year, we’ve focused on these cases to defend our environmental protections from rollbacks:

  • Against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to challenge its revocation of California’s waiver from preemption under the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to set, and other states to adopt, more stringent standards for tailpipe pollution from cars and trucks. We’re also challenging the EPA’s rollback of the federal greenhouse gas emissions standards and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s rollback of fuel economy standards.
  • Against the EPA in order to stop the agency from undercutting standards that regulate the emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.
  • Against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to stop its rollback of efficiency standards for lightbulbs. Separately, we’re also challenging the DOE’s new rule governing the process by which efficiency standards are set for a broad range of consumer appliances and equipment.
  • Against the Council on Environmental Quality to challenge its rule gutting how agencies conduct the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.
  • Against the EPA to challenge its revised definition of “waters of the United States,” which severely limits the scope of the Clean Water Act and leaves unprotected the drinking water sources of millions of Americans.  Previously, Environment America also filed amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in separate litigation to defend the Clean Water Rule, which has now been rescinded by the Trump administration.
  • Against the EPA to challenge its failure to update standards for the massive flow of water pollution from slaughterhouses.
  • Against the Department of the Interior to challenge its decision to move forward with lease sales for oil and gas extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Against the EPA in order to force the agency to regulate the intake of cooling water at large power and manufacturing plants, a practice that kills billions of fish and other organisms.
  • Environment America has also filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule, which purports to replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan but actually allows power plants to emit more carbon dioxide.
Porcupine caribou roam Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We’ve filed suit to protect this special place.
Ken Madsen
Ready to bring polluters to court

We’re always on the lookout for other cases of illegal pollution. And the EPA’s long-term decline in inspections and enforcement makes our mission of holding polluters accountable in court all the more urgent.

With the support of our members and in partnership with local citizens and environmental allies, we continue to:

  • Pursue our current cases against polluters.
  • Research new cases across the country, including those reported to us by our members.
  • Mobilize the legal, scientific and other technical resources we need to prevail against polluters in court.

In all these efforts, we aim to hold polluters accountable, clean up our air and water, protect the health of the American people, and preserve nature and our wildlife.

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