D.C. CIRCUIT VICTORY REGARDING ONLINE POSTING OF ANIMAL WELFARE RECORDS

On behalf of our clients, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Born Free USA, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and the Rescue and Freedom Project, we obtained an important legal victory from the D.C. Circuit, which held that our claims against the United States Department of Agriculture’s (“USDA”) removal of animal welfare records from its website should move forward. We challenged the USDA’s removal from its website of these important information, which our clients and others use to monitor conditions of animals held in captivity, as well as the USDA’s lax enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, as a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The D.C. Circuit’s ruling holds that our challenge to the USDA’s removal of this information was not rendered moot by the agency re-posting some of the information at issue online in response to our litigation. This important ruling ensures that our clients will now have an opportunity to demonstrate that the USDA’s deletion of important information on “personal privacy” grounds has no merit.

MAJOR D.C. CIRCUIT VICTORY AGAINST TRANSMISSION LINE NEAR HISTORIC JAMESTOWN

On behalf of National Parks Conservation Association, we obtained a significant legal victory from the D.C. Circuit.  In its decision, a three-judge panel ruled unanimously that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) by failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) before approving this highly controversial transmission line in a historically sensitive location that will result in unparalleled impacts to this historic district encompassing the first English settlement in North America.  In finding the Corps’ decision arbitrary and capricious, the court held that “repeated criticism from many agencies who serve as stewards of the exact resources at issue, not to mention consultants and organizations with on-point expertise, surely rises to more than mere passion” and thus requires, at minimum, preparation of an EIS.  The court vacated the Corps’ permit to the project proponent (Dominion Energy) and instructed the Corps to prepare an EIS while also considering practicable alternatives to Dominion’s preferred project configuration.  The opinion can be found here.

The Times They Are A-Changin At Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP

Major changes are coming to MGE. After 26 years of running a public-interest law firm, Kathy Meyer and Eric Glitzenstein have decided that it’s time for them to do something different. On July 1, 2019, Bill Eubanks, along with our associates Nick Lawton and Lizzie Lewis, will be taking over most of the firm's litigation practice as part of a new firm, Eubanks & Associates, LLC, which will continue the firm’s tradition of pursuing public-interest litigation on behalf of non-profit organizations and individuals as vigorously and effectively as possible. Also starting July 1, Kathy will transition to a consulting role with her own practice, which will focus on providing clients with advice, editing briefs, strategizing, and mentoring young attorneys, while avoiding primary responsibility for litigation tasks. At the same time, Eric will become the Director of Litigation for the Center for Biological Diversity. Leslie Mink, our Director of Operations who has been with the firm from its inception, will assist with the firm’s transition while also starting a new position with the law firm Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch, P.C., a firm specializing in employment and labor law issues.

 It has been an honor and a privilege to work with and represent organizations and people who are striving to make the world a better place. We look forward to working with you in the future in our various new endeavors.  

Another Victory for the Wild Horses of the Wyoming Checkerboard

Yesterday, on behalf of the American Wild Horse Campaign and nationally recognized wildlife photographer Carol Walker, our firm obtained a legal victory from the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming in a case challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM”) new method of calculating “excess animals” that may be permanently removed from public lands under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.  After the Tenth Circuit rejected the agency’s first attempt in 2016 to remove non-excess wild horses from these public lands, BLM adopted a new approach in 2017 that uses a different method to achieve the same result—i.e., removing non-excess horses from the range in violation of the plain terms of the statute.  In its ruling, the court held that BLM failed to supply any reasoned explanation for its new practice of removing non-excess horses, and remanded to the agency for further consideration.  The ruling can be found here.

 

Photo courtesy of Carol Walker

LAWSUIT FILED TO BLOCK MASSIVE EXPANSION OF COLORADO DAM

Today, on behalf of Save the Colorado and five other environmental nonprofit organizations, we filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (“Corps”) authorization of a massive expansion of Gross Dam and Reservoir located in Boulder County, Colorado.  If built, this dam would be the tallest dam in Colorado, and it would require clear-cutting more than a half million trees and inundating large amounts of public land in the vicinity of the project site, which is located in a forested area six miles from downtown Boulder.  The lawsuit includes challenges under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act, focusing heavily on the flawed purpose and need statement adopted by the Corps and the artificially narrow alternatives analysis conducted by the Corps.  The lawsuit requests that the court vacate and remand various decisions issued by the Corps, as well as a biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for this project.  The complaint can be found here.

 

Photo taken by Matthew Jonas, Boulder Daily Camera Staff Photographer.

Victory for Colorado’s Bald Eagles

Late last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado ruled in favor of our client, Front Range Nesting Bald Eagle Studies, in its challenge to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s issuance of a permit to take bald eagles under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.  The court found that the Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act in several ways, including by failing to analyze the cumulative impacts of the action and by failing to explain why it refused to extend the five-working-day public comment period despite myriad requests by the public to do so.  This is the first successful legal challenge to an eagle take permit since the Service revised its eagle permitting regulations in 2016 in response to a separate legal victory our firm obtained in 2015, and the ruling sends a strong message to the Service that it must adhere to the safeguards built into federal law to ensure the conservation of bald and golden eagles before issuing permits that will disturb or otherwise harm these protected animals.  The opinion can be found here.

Amicus Brief Filed in Case Challenging National Park Service’s Authorization of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Today, on behalf of National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, we filed an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Sierra Club v. National Parks Service, a case challenging the National Park Service’s (“NPS”) issuance of a right-of-way to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC to construct a natural gas pipeline across the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway (“Parkway”). Despite the significant adverse impacts that the proposed pipeline will have on the Parkway, including adverse impacts to the viewsheds, NPS issued a categorical exclusion (“CE”) for the project, exempting the pipeline from thorough environmental review under NEPA. Our brief explains that the plain language of the specific CE invoked limits its application to the installation of underground utilities in previously disturbed areas, which cannot include a pipeline that will cut across undisturbed Parkway lands. Moreover, even assuming the CE applied, extraordinary circumstances are present that preclude the use of a CE for the project and require the preparation of an environmental impact statement or, at minimum, an environmental assessment to allow for a full evaluation of the significant impacts that the project will have on the Parkway. Finally, our brief explains that NPS violated the Organic Act when it issued the right-of-way for the proposed pipeline because the pipeline’s acknowledged adverse effects on the viewshed are inconsistent with the Parkway’s express purposes to “conserve the scenery” and “provide opportunities for high-quality scenic and recreational experiences.” You can find a copy of our brief here.

 

Photo credit: National Park Service.

Lawsuit Filed to Challenge National Marine Fisheries Service’s Decision that it Lacks the Legal Authority to Obtain Captive Orcas’ Necropsy Reports from Marine Mammal Parks

Today, on behalf of several scientists, marine mammal advocates, and animal welfare organizations, we filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (“NMFS”) decision that it lacks any legal authority under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (“MMPA”) over MMPA permit conditions requiring marine parks and zoos to submit necropsy and clinical history information to the agency upon the death of the marine mammal held under the permit. MMPA permits authorizing the take and importation of marine mammals for captive display that were issued prior to the statute’s amendment in 1994 routinely included provisions requiring the holder to submit necropsy and clinical history information to NMFS within thirty days of the covered animal’s death. The medical and veterinary information contained in the reports is vital not only to understanding the impact of captivity on orcas’ welfare, but also to informing the rescue and treatment of injured or ill marine mammals in the wild. Accordingly, after the recent deaths of three orcas held at SeaWorld parks pursuant to pre-1994 MMPA permits—Tilikum, Kasatka, and Kyara—leading marine mammal scientists and advocacy organizations requested that NMFS exercise its authority under the permits to obtain these important records. In response, NMFS took the position that the legal validity of the permit conditions at issue was extinguished by the 1994 amendments to the MMPA, a position that is at odds with the language of the MMPA, the legislative history underlying the 1994 amendments, and the overriding purpose of the statute to protect marine mammals. Moreover, NMFS has never offered any legal explanation for its determination, in violation of its obligations under the Administrative Procedure Act. A copy of the Complaint can be found here, and a press release on the lawsuit can be found here.

MGE LAWSUIT LEADS BLM TO ABANDON GRUESOME SPAY EXPERIMENTS

The Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) today decided to drop a gruesome series of experiments on sterilization of wild mares that are the subject of a lawsuit that we brought on behalf of our clients Ginger Kathrens, The Cloud Foundation, the American Wild Horse Campaign, the Animal Welfare Institute, and Carol Walker.  Last Friday, the District of Oregon issued a preliminary injunction against BLM’s experiments, finding that we are likely to succeed on claims that BLM’s restrictions on public access to observe these experiments violated our clients’ First Amendment rights and that BLM had unlawfully and inexplicably abandoned any consideration of whether the public would find these experiments socially acceptable.  Now, rather than defending its attempt to prevent meaningful public oversight of these experiments, BLM has abandoned them altogether.  This development marks an important victory for wild horses and for public oversight and accountability.   

Photo courtesy of The Cloud Foundation

MGE WINS PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION TO HALT WILD HORSE STERILIZATION EXPERIMENTS

In a major victory for wild horses and our clients, MGE today secured a preliminary injunction from the District Court in Portland, Oregon to stop a series of experiments on a gruesome procedure called ovariectomy via colpotomy, which the Bureau of Land Management had planned to perform on 100 wild mares.The Court found that our clients, Ginger Kathrens, The Cloud Foundation, the American Wild Horse Campaign, the Animal Welfare Institute, and Carol Walker, have a right under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution to observe this important government activity, and that the BLM had unlawfully infringed on that right by forbidding observation of this experiment by an independent veterinarian or through the use of cameras.The Court also found that BLM had unreasonably abandoned its previous effort to assess whether this procedure is “socially acceptable.” Focusing on Ms. Kathrens’ role on BLM’s own Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, the Court granted a preliminary injunction that will stop these experiments while the case moves forward and that will protect our clients’ constitutional rights.