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At Earthrise, we are passionate about using the law to protect and
restore the environment and the planet's natural resources, and about
training law students to become skilled environmental advocates.
Governors Kitzhaber and Gregoire with the Interstate Bridge
Governors Kitzhaber and Gregoire with the Interstate Bridge (ODOT)

Columbia River Crossing

Earthrise Takes On the Living Dead
The Columbia River Crossing, known as the CRC, proposes to replace the existing Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River with a new bridge and new interchanges. Earthrise filed litigation in July of 2012 on behalf of the Northwest Environmental Defence Center, Coalition for a Livable Future, and the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods challenging the CRC’s Environmental Impact Statement and Biological Opinion. As Tom Buchele, Earthrise managing attorney and lead attorney on the case, wrote in an op-ed in The Oregonian, There always have been viable alternatives available that do not require the demolition of the current, structurally sound bridges and that focus on far more sustainable approaches to the region's transportation challenges.
Last summer many pundits and press reports, as well as the governors of both Oregon and Washington, declared the CRC dead after Washington’s legislature refused to fund it. But the litigation continued to move forward. The defendants, including the State of Oregon and the Washington Department of Transportation, insisted that the case, unlike the zombie bridge itself, was not dead. Then last fall the state of Oregon proposed that the CRC move forward as a significantly different project funded and managed by Oregon alone. Oregon also insisted that none of the changeswhich would require in-water construction work during salmon migrations and stretched out over many more years than the original proposalrequired any additional analysis under NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) or the ESA (Endangered Species Act).

After Earthrise filed several motions, the defendants finally conceded that the plaintiffs could file an amended complaint challenging the project as it now exists. The defendants have now submitted a supplemental administrative record that supposedly documents those changes. While Earthrise student law clerks have been busily reviewing that new record, Oregon’s Governor has once again announced that the project will die unless the Oregon Legislature votes to fund it during the legislative session that ends March 9th. Will the CRC continue to stumble forward like the living dead or will Oregon’s legislature decide that it is
a bridge too far and refuse to fund it? All we can know for sure right now is that Earthrise will continue to press its clients’ claims until the CRC succumbs to its legal flaws, or dies an “unnatural” death because it cannot pay its bills.
Ship pumping ballast water
Ship pumping ballast water (US Coast Guard)

Earthrise's Long Voyage

Protecting Waters from Invasive Species

Earthrise recently took another step forward in our now fifteen-year battle to force meaningful regulation of ballast water discharges from ships. On January 31st, Earthrise filed our opening brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where we have challenged the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 2013 Vessel General Permit (VGP).

When vessels take on ballast for stabilization, they inadvertently transport small live organisms and their eggs and larvae, among other pollutants. A single ship’s ballast tank can contain hundreds of species. As vessels move from port to port, the discharge of this contaminated ballast water becomes one of the primary sources for the spread of aquatic invasive species. Invasive species often out-compete native species, damage habitats, alter existing food webs, damage human infrastructure, and destroy the chemical and physical balance of their new environments. Invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels, mitten crabs, and the so-called "fish Ebola" virus in ballast water have been threatening the natural environment and destroying human infrastructure for years. The ecological and economical costs are staggering.

In our January filing, we argued that the permit limitations for ballast water discharges do not meet Clean Water Act muster. First, we argued that EPA chose outdated treatment standards previously adopted by an international organization, and then defined “best available technology” as the technology that could meet only those standards. In doing so, we argued that EPA ignored its own scientific panel’s recommendation that more protective standards are achievable today and that a more detailed investigation into onshore treatment technologies, in particular, was warranted by the scientific evidence.

Second, we argued that the VGP does not ensure that water quality standards will be met, as required by the Clean Water Act. The VGP’s sole provision aimed at meeting state water quality standards is a one-line directive to vessel operators to control their discharges as necessary. We argued that this provision is effectively meaningless, as it puts the burden on vessel operators to determine how to control their discharges to meet water quality standards—a burden impossible for them to meet.
Read more about this campaign's early history, from 1999 through our settlement agreement with EPA in 2011, requiring EPA to develop a more stringent VGP. At the end of April 2013, EPA issued a new permit. While this second bite at the apple is better than the first, EPA’s permit is still a far cry from what is necessary to stop the environmental devastation caused by aquatic invasive species. This is why we have once again taken EPA to the mat. We know technologies exist to control the spread of invasive species. By pushing EPA first to regulate ballast water discharges, and now to develop a better permit with stronger controls, Earthrise hopes to stem the tide of invasive species brought into U.S. waters.

Earthrise is representing Northwest Environmental Advocates and the Center for Biological Diversity in this newest case. We are co-counseling with lawyers and students at Stanford Law School’s Environmental Clinic, and we are working in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council and National Wildlife Federation. The VGP case exemplifies the important role Earthrise continues to play in long-term litigation of critical ecological importance

In This Edition

  • Columbia River Crossing
  • Protecting Waters from Invasive Species
  • Thank you for your support!
  • Farewell to Dan Mensher
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Support our work!

Without your donations, we would not be able to continue our work. 

Thank you for your support!

Thanks to our fantastic supporters, Earthrise had by far its best end-of-year fundraising drive at the close of 2013. We set a tentative goal of $15,000 for the campaign. We more than doubled that, bringing in close to $34,000. 

The support we receive from our alumni and friends is both heart-warming and important. It helps to insulate us from some of the wild swings that could otherwise result from depending too heavily on fee-recovery work. It also allows us to take on more projects that constitute true pro bono work, without any prospect of fee recovery.
The importance of this support is even further heightened in this era of declining law school budgets. As Lewis & Clark, like all other law schools, tries to shrink its class sizes in response to changes in the legal market, Earthrise is facing at least a temporary period of declining Law School support. This only underscores our need for outside help.  
We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for helping us as we help our clients achieve their environmental objectives, while at the same time training the next generation of environ-mental advocates.

Together we stand. Earthrise.
Dan Mensher

Fond Farewell to

Dan Mensher

It is with mixed emotions that we announce the departure of attorney Dan Mensher, who left Earthrise at the end of January to work for Keller Rohrback, a plaintiffs' class action firm in Seattle. Dan is founding their environmental practice.
All of us at Earthrise already miss Dan very much. He served Earthrise, our students, and our clients with incredible distinction for five-and-a-half years. He has been an extraordinary colleague and friend.
While we feel a little sorry for ourselves, we are sincerely happy for Dan. In addition to gaining more intensive, trial-type litigation experience, Dan and his family will be closer to Dan's parents, brother, and sister-in-law.
Please join all of us at Earthrise in wishing Dan the very, very best as he embarks on this new professional challenge.

Issue No.

Earthrise Law Center at Lewis & Clark Law School 10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd. | Portland, OR 97219 US
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