The Environmental Integrity Project protects public health and the environment by investigating polluters and holding them accountable under the law. Our legal work focuses on advancing our key program objectives, which primarily include: protecting water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams; cleaning up pollution from coal ash dumps and from new and existing oil, gas, and petrochemical facilities; protecting public health from air pollution in the greater Houston area and in Maryland and Pennsylvania; and ensuring that wood pellet and biomass plants limit their pollution and environmental impact.
We work with national, state, and community groups to achieve outcomes that reduce pollution and improve public safeguards, with a special focus on vulnerable populations located near industry hubs or other sources of air and water pollution. Often, we work hand-in-hand with local organizations to offer them legal representation and help them win David vs. Goliath battles against big polluters. For example, in July 2019, EIP, representing three other environmental groups, reached a historic agreement to reduce toxic pollutants leaking from Brunner Island Generating Station’s coal ash dumps into groundwater and the Susquehanna River, the largest Chesapeake Bay tributary.
“The Brunner Island coal ash spill is such a great example of the work of the Environmental Integrity Project. Working within the framework of existing law, and working in partnership with the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, the poisonous outflow of toxic coal ash was stopped from entering the Susquehanna River. The Environmental Integrity Project provided the legal expertise needed to hold Talen Energy, the owner and operator of the site, accountable for the cleanup.” — John Dawes, Executive Director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds and Presidents of the EIP’s Board
Our attorneys have decades of experience taking on some of the country’s biggest industrial polluters and enablers, such as the Trump EPA. Our compact size and history of working with a variety of partners allows us to maintain a nimble composure, and adjust our strategy to best confront these often fast-moving and highly complex issues. EIP also has a hard-earned reputation for paying careful attention to both law and fact. We’ve built this reputation since our inception in 2002, when EIP was founded by Eric Schaeffer, who had resigned his position as director of the U.S. EPA’s office of civil enforcement in protest when the Bush White House interfered with Clean Air Act efforts to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Recent Litigation Successes and Ongoing Efforts
- In July 2019, EIP, representing three other environmental groups, reached a historic agreement to reduce toxic pollutants leaking from a power plant’s coal ash dumps into groundwater and the Susquehanna River, the largest Chesapeake Bay tributary. The consent decree requires Talen Energy, owner of the Brunner Island Generating Station in York Haven, to close and excavate one ash pond, monitor and address leakage of pollutants from other waste sites, pay a $1 million civil penalty, and contribute an additional $100,000 to fund supplemental projects to reduce local water pollution. Read the press release. View the consent decree.
“Thanks to the skillful work of the attorneys at the Environmental Integrity Project, our organization was able to achieve a landmark victory for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay’s biggest tributary. The Environmental Integrity Project’s knowledge of the federal Clean Water Act – and the fact that they have top level, former EPA enforcement attorneys on staff – provided the legal muscle to help our community organization achieve our goals in cleaning up coal ash from the Susquehanna River.” — Ted Evgeniadis, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper
- In July 2020, EIP, the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, and Appalachian Mountain Advocates sent a notice of intent to sue to the D. & L. Coal Company of Keyser, W.V. for violations of the Clean Water Act at the coal loading operation in Mineral County, W.V. The paper mill closed in June 2019 and is the subject of a federal lawsuit, initiated by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network and the Environmental Integrity Project, for leaking a toxic black waste liquid called “black liquor” into the river. The state has also launched legal actions against the mill. Read the press release. View the notice of intent to sue.
“Potomac Riverkeeper Network is fortunate to have EIP’s ace environmental attorneys representing us on key legal actions in our fight to restore the Potomac River. Their expertise in Clean Water Act litigation enables us to punch above our weight and bring strong enforcement actions against polluters like D & L Coal, where the combination of aggressive investigation by the Upper Potomac Riverkeeper and careful legal planning by EIP led to holding this company accountable for their coal pile runoff into the Upper Potomac River.” — Phillip Musegaas, VP of Programs and Litigation, Potomac Riverkeeper Network
- In July 2021, EIP, representing Clean Air Council, successfully defeated the proposed 1,000-megawatt gas-fired Beech Hollow power plant. If built, the plant would have been an enormous source of dangerous air pollution and greenhouse gases in a region of PA where residents already suffer from some of the worst air quality in the entire United States. Read the press release.
- In June 2020, EIP and nine other environmental organizations sent the EPA a notice of intent to sue the agency over its failure to reduce toxic air pollution from the flares on petrochemical plants, gas processing facilities, and other industrial sites. EPA has not updated the air pollution control standards for industrial flares in 34 years, even though the federal Clean Air Act requires that agency review them at least once every eight years to make sure they adequately protect the public and incorporate improvements in technology. Read the press release. View the notice of intent to sue.
- EIP and the Sierra Club negotiated the settlement of a Clean Air Act lawsuit against the James Lake Gas Plant in December 2019 that requires the West Texas natural gas plant to meet new limits that will substantially reduce flaring emissions. Located about 10 miles northwest of Odessa in the heart of the Permian Basin, the plant processes gas by stripping out the acid gas hydrogen sulfide. For years, the plant has routinely reported major sulfur dioxide releases due to excessive acid gas flaring. Sulfur dioxide pollution has an especially harmful impact on people with asthma and other respiratory conditions. Read the press release. View the complaint.
- In December 2019, EIP and Earthjustice sued EPA for its refusal to tighten restrictions on water pollution from slaughterhouses. EPA’s decision turns a blind eye to the outdated an ineffective pollution-controls that too many large meat processing plants still use, which dump nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfates and other contaminants that have fouled waterways across the country. More than a third of these slaughterhouses are still operating under guidelines that date back to 1974 or 1975, so EIP is trying to force both EPA and the meat-processing industry to modernize and clean up their acts. Read the press release. View the lawsuit.
- The world’s largest manufacturer of wood pellet fuel for power plants, Enviva, agreed to install air pollution-reducing equipment at a biomass plant under construction in Richmond County, North Carolina, in a June 2019 settlement that EIP negotiated with the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Clean Air Carolina. Enviva will reduce harmful volatile organic compound pollution from its smokestacks by at least 95 percent, according to the agreement, which the company entered into in order to avoid further litigation over construction permits. Read the press release. View the settlement agreement.
“When we joined with local residents challenging Enviva’s air permit for their Hamlet, North Carolina, facility, we found EIP’s considerable insights into the wood pellet industry in the Southeast truly invaluable. Thanks to their extensive research and persuasive legal advocacy, toxic air emissions will be reduced by 95% at this facility and emissions at a second Enviva facility in North Carolina will also be reduced. We cannot thank EIP enough for tirelessly advocating for clean, healthy air in our state’s rural communities.” — June Blotnick, Executive Director, Clean Air Carolina
- EIP, along with Communities for a Better Environment and Environmental Advocates, filed a federal lawsuit in December 2019 against a chemical plant northeast of San Francisco for serious violations of federal hazardous waste laws meant to control air pollution and protect workers and nearby residents from dangerous chemicals. The 1,000-acre Corteva Inc. plant (formerly owned by Dow Chemical Company), located in Pittsburgh, CA, manufactures fertilizers, insecticides, and personal care products. The chemical plant is in the middle of a community of 70,000, most of whom are people of color or lower income. Read the press release. View the lawsuit.
“Communities for a Better Environment’s members live in low-income communities of color near the Dow/Corteva facility. For years, we have been concerned about operations there. EIP investigated key information and developed legal theories to make it actionable to protect our members. The legal knowledge and expertise that EIP brought to the table really enabled us to take on this case against Dow/Corteva. With EIP’s incredible dedicated support in these challenging times, we are hoping to achieve changes at this facility that will better protect the health of the Pittsburg, CA community.“ — Shana Lazerow, Legal Director, Communities for a Better Environment
- Residents of southwest Pennsylvania’s Beaver County had been fearful of the air pollution that would rise from a massive petrochemical plant that Shell Chemical Appalachia, LLC, is building nearby. On behalf of members of the local community, EIP and a local organization, the Clean Air Council, challenged the plant’s permit, and on August 28, 2017, we reached a groundbreaking settlement with Shell. The settlement requires the company to install and operate a fence-line monitoring system to help detect and repair any leaks or other emission sources that cause pollution levels to spike to unhealthy levels. Read the press release. View the settlement agreement.
“The smart and capable attorneys and engineers at EIP were excellent partners in our appeal of the air quality permits for the Shell ethane cracker plant outside of Pittsburgh.” — Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director, Clean Air Council