Environmental partners of Obama administration quickly turn into litigation adversaries of Trump

Environmental activists have gone from being the government’s closest allies to being nonstop litigants in just four months, filing lawsuits on a weekly basis challenging virtually every move the Trump administration has made in its deregulatory push.

The Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity have led the way with 16 lawsuits apiece. Earthjustice, another top environmental group, has filed at least nine lawsuits. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, Friends of the Earth and a host of other organizations also have jumped into the legal fray, flooding the Justice Department with dozens of legal actions.

Even the League of Conservation Voters, which until this year had never filed legal challenges and remained a strictly political group, announced its first-ever lawsuit, challenging President Trump’s executive order opening new areas for offshore drilling. The league cast the move as proof that the political winds had dramatically shifted, and they were forced to adapt.

“We aren’t about to go down without a fight,” the group’s president, Gene Karpinski, wrote this month explaining the legal challenge. “To be clear, we’re not reinventing ourselves as a legal outfit. But in a country where too much of our government is controlled by forces hostile to conservation and environmental safeguards, we simply cannot afford to leave any tool in the toolbox.”

It’s unclear just how many legal complaints have been filed — the Justice Department says it does not maintain a comprehensive list of environmental lawsuits — but the weight of the numbers underscores just how much the shift from the Obama to the Trump administration has meant for energy and environmental policy.

Under the previous administration, the groups worked closely with government officials, offering advice and even helping craft regulations.

They would even use lawsuits to try to assist the Environmental Protection Agency and other departments, going to court to force the government to follow through on long-stalled environmental decisions. The process was known as sue-and-settle, and it earned the environmental groups millions of dollars in legal fees even as it shaped pro-environmental policies.

Now, however, the relationship is completely adversarial.

Although the barrage of lawsuits has helped environmentalist groups’ bottom lines — a number of top organizations have reported record fundraising since Mr. Trump took office — some analysts say the administration also has provided an unprecedented opportunity for organizations to take tangible action defending their missions.

“Is this just opposition for the sake of opposition? This is opposition for the sake of environmental protection and for the sake of seeking to protect human health,” said Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. “None of these are frivolous lawsuits.”

The groups still cast themselves as defenders of the planet, but their websites, fundraising pitches and social media accounts focus heavily on slowing down Mr. Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and other administration officials intent on rolling back the regulatory framework put into place over the past eight years.

The League of Conservation Voters lawsuit challenges Mr. Trump’s executive order this month directing the Interior Department to review the nation’s offshore drilling protocol. The order rescinds the Obama administration’s moratorium on new offshore leases and potentially will open up more areas in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans to energy exploration.

Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council will act as the League of Conservation Voters’ attorneys in that case and are part of multiple other lawsuits against the Trump administration.

The organization has sued to stop Mr. Trump’s executive order requiring two regulations to be scrapped for each one enacted, to block the EPA from approving certain new pesticides, to uphold the Clean Power Plan limit on carbon emissions from power plants that Mr. Pruitt is dismantling, and a host of other matters.

“These legal battles are just beginning, but we will stick with them for as long as it takes,” Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen wrote recently.

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Comments (6)

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover

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    Earth Justice just like the Center for Biological Diversity,Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund,NRDC and the rest of the eco-freaks can always count on some bunch of idiots from Hollywood to support their idiotic campaigns these back to nature freakos are their own worst enemies

  • Avatar

    Sonnyhill

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    The USA feeds the world’s largest army of lawyers. Collectively they are a huge drag on your economy. If you are sued in America, quite often it is cheaper to settle, rather than fight for justice. Also , regulations like the Sarbanes Oxley Act have scared investment elsewhere. Search “Magee curve” to see why Americans suffer from too many legal eagles.

  • Avatar

    G

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    When did America the word “justice” be co-opted by the extreme left? Consider their ultimate goal of world socialism hiding behind this eco-scam:

    Where was the “justice” in Stalin’s gulags?
    Where was the “justice” in Mao’s reeducation camps?
    Where was the “justice” in Pol Pot’s killing fields?

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover

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    The mentality of the enviromenalists waco nuts. SAVE THE OWLS,KA-CHING,KA-CHING,KA-CHING,SAVE THE REDWOODS,KA-CHING,KA-CHING,KA-CHING,STOP GLOBAL WARMING KA-CHING,KA-CHING,KA-CHING JUST SEND US $500 FOR FREE PHOTOS OF DROWNING POLARBEARS,OIL BIRDS AND BLOODY SEAL PUPS

  • Avatar

    David Lewis

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    I stopped a threat to sue me dead in its tracks by letting them know if I was sued, I would counter sue for costs and time.

    The government could and should use the same approach. Counter sue for cost of lawyers, court costs, and if any injunction that was later over turned resulted in a cost, sue for that. When ever the organization’s structure permits sue every single member. This approach worked for me, and would end these environmentalists’ suits.

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    The last few months has revealed how far the USA has fallen . Elected officials are openly mocked by institutions , leaking disloyal insiders and a rapidly deteriorating
    lack of respect from all sides .
    A year from now it will be a surprise if global warming fear mongering isn’t remembered as the good old days .
    This is going to get ugly fast .

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