Legal Heroes: Josh Kratka and Dave Nicholas
Over the past several years, attorneys Josh Kratka and Dave Nicholas have represented the Sierra Club and Environment Texas in a series of groundbreaking lawsuits seeking to hold several of the world's largest oil and chemical companies accountable for millions of pounds of illegal air pollution each year along Texas's Gulf Coast. Despite a Texas law that requires companies to publicly report every incident in which large amounts of air pollutants are released in violation of Clean Air Act permits, neither state regulators nor the EPA have done much to crack down on illegal emissions of carcinogens, hazardous air pollutants, and the chemicals that create urban smog.
The first two lawsuits filed by Kratka and Nicholas resulted in settlements that required Shell Oil Company and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company to collectively cut illegal emissions by more than a million pounds a year, upgrade their plants to further reduce and better monitor their emissions, and pay nearly $8 million in civil penalties -- money that has been used to fund an environmental health clinic, cut diesel pollution from school buses, and install solar panels in the Houston area. The penalty paid by Shell ($5.8 million) is believed to be the largest penalty in an environmental citizen suit in Texas history, and nationally one of the largest against a single facility. A third lawsuit, against ExxonMobil's largest-in-the-nation refinery and chemical plant complex in Baytown, Texas, is scheduled for trial in early 2013.
Josh Kratka is a Senior Attorney at the National Environment Law Center, where he has litigated environmental cases since 1994. He specializes in citizen suits, in which private citizens and environmental groups can "step into the shoes" of the attorney general and enforce federal environmental laws.
He has represented environmental groups throughout the country. The National Environmental Law Center has brought over 100 cases to enforce anti-pollution laws, winning more than $200 million in court-ordered penalties and pollution reduction measures. Josh is a graduate of Harvard College and Northeastern University School of Law.
Dave Nicholas is an attorney in Newton, Massachusetts. He practices exclusively public interest law, representing national, state, and local environmental groups in Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act lawsuits. His cases have involved oil refineries, chemical plants, paper mills, sewage treatment plants, fish farms, military installations, textile plants, and hydroelectric dams, among other facilities.
He has also brought cases challenging the constitutionality of state laws that endanger wilderness areas and wildlife. He is a graduate of Amherst College and New York University School of Law. Dave worked for the National Environmental Law Center from 1991-2003.