A String of Victories

The Border Wall is Unconstitutional

June 26 - The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that President Trump’s attempt to circumvent Congress and transfer $2.5 billion in military pay and pension funds for border wall construction is unlawful. The court also forcefully rejected the administration’s argument that no one can go to court to block the president’s blatant abuse of power. The court affirmed the district court’s order blocking the illegal construction.The ruling came in a lawsuit, Sierra Club v. Trump, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition. Managing Attorneys Gloria Smith and Sanjay Narayan were counsel of record in the litigation, assisted by Associate Attorney Ankit Jain and Legal Assistants Ana Boyd and Miriam Raffel-Smith. See the decision here.

Trump's Clean Air Act Rollback Rejected

July 2 - Today, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated one of the Pruitt EPA’s awful Clean Air Act policy reversals, holding that, contrary to EPA’s new position, Title V of the Clean Air Act and its implementing regulations require operating permits that secure compliance with “all existing statutory requirements.” Briefly, the Pruitt EPA had reversed decades of policy and declared that, regardless of whether a polluter’s modifications to its plant should have triggered major permitting requirements--i.e., "best available control technology"--those requirements are not “applicable requirements” that need to be addressed in plants’ operating permits. The opinion and order also includes a great discussion of citizen standing, securing citizens’ access to the courthouse. Outside counsel Keri Powell and Patton Dycus litigated this case for Sierra Club, and were assisted by Sierra Club Senior Attorneys Andrea Issod and Joshua Smith, Paralegals David Abel and Violet Lehrer, and Research Analysts Ana Boyd, Lauren Hogrewe and Lou Finazzo.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is Cancelled

July 5 - Today, following years of legal battles and community opposition, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy announced they are cancelling construction of their 600-mile, $8 billion fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The project had become increasingly controversial as communities, environmental organizations and racial justice advocates raised concerns over the effects it would have on public health, water quality, and the climate. This historic news comes after numerous legal defeats, ongoing court cases, and a massive coalition spanning multiple states demanded that the pipeline be canceled. Senior Attorney Nathan Matthews litigated a key challenge to the project, and assisted in other cases in partnership with the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates. Nathan was assisted by legal assistants Lou Finazzo and Harry Libarle. Senior Attorney Elly Benson also filed an amicus case challenging the project, focusing on the environmental injustice of siting one of the pipeline’s compressor stations in a predominantly African American community. Elly was assisted by Legal Assistant Katie Chamberlain.

Dakota Access Pipeline Denied and Emptied

July 6 -This morning, a federal judge ordered that the Dakota Access pipeline be shut down and emptied of oil by August 5, 2020. The ruling is a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes, who successfully challenged the Trump administration’s approval of the easement for the pipeline crossing of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. In March, the court ruled that the Trump administration had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to adequately review the risks of leaks or spills from the pipeline, and ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to prepare an environmental impact statement. Today’s ruling halts pipeline operation while this environmental review is being conducted, as urged by the Tribes, joined by environmental, landowner, and Indigenous groups. Earthjustice served as lead counsel in the case. Sierra Club Senior Attorney Elly Benson, assisted by Legal Assistant Meral Basit, filed an amicus brief urging the court to adopt the remedy it did. The amicus brief was submitted to the court by the Sierra Club, Honor the Earth, Dakota Rural Action, Friends of the Earth, Bold Alliance, Save Our Illinois Land (SOIL), Center for Biological Diversity, and 350.org. It focused on the environmental justice impacts of the pipeline.

Keystone XL Cannot Proceed

July 6 - Today, the United States Supreme Court declined a request from TC Energy and the Trump administration to allow Keystone XL to proceed under Nationwide Permit 12, a key water crossing permit for pipelines that a district court found unlawful. The court also issued a partial stay of the district court’s decision as it applies to other pipelines while a full appeal of the decision moves forward. In April, the U.S. District Court in Montana ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the Endangered Species Act when it issued Nationwide Permit 12, vacating the permit and prohibiting the Corps from using this fast-tracked approval process for Keystone XL and other pipeline projects. The Army Corps had pushed to allow pipeline construction under the permit to continue during its appeal of the ruling in the Ninth Circuit. That court rejected the Army Corps’ request. The Supreme Court’s order partially reverses the Ninth Circuit’s decision, allowing other pipelines to continue using Nationwide Permit 12, but continuing to bar the construction of Keystone XL through rivers, streams, and wetlands while the appeal is heard.

Sierra Club Senior Attorney Doug Hayes played a leading role in this litigation, assisted by Managing Attorney Eric Huber, Senior Attorney Joshua Smith, Associate Attorney Rebecca McCreary and Legal Assistant Cassidy Lang.

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