Greetings from Earthjustice, reddit! You might remember my colleagues Greg, Marjorie, and Tim from previous AMAs on protecting bees and wolves. Earthjustice is a public interest law firm that uses the power of the courts to safeguard Americans’ air, water, health, wild places, and wild species.

We’re very busy. Donald Trump has tried to do more harm to the environment in his first 100 days than any other president in history. The New York Times recently published a list of 23 environmental rules the Trump administration has attempted to roll back, including limits on greenhouse gas emissions, new standards for energy efficiency, and even a regulation that stopped coal companies from dumping untreated waste into mountain streams.

Earthjustice has filed a steady stream of lawsuits against Trump. So far, we’ve filed or are preparing litigation to stop the administration from, among other things:

My specialty is defending our country’s wildlands, oceans, and wildlife in court from fossil fuel extraction, over-fishing, habitat loss, and other threats. Ask me about how our team plans to counter Trump’s anti-environment agenda, which flies in the face of the needs and wants of voters. Almost 75 percent of Americans, including 6 in 10 Trump voters, support regulating climate changing pollution.

If you feel moved to support Earthjustice’s work, please consider taking action for one of our causes or making a donation. We’re entirely non-profit, so public contributions pay our salaries.

Proof, and for comparison, more proof. I’ll be answering questions live starting at 12:30 p.m. Pacific/3:30 p.m. Eastern. Ask me anything!

EDIT: We're still live - I just had to grab some lunch. I'm back and answering more questions.

EDIT: Front page! Thank you so much reddit! And thank you for the gold. Since I'm not a regular redditor, please consider spending your hard-earned money by donating directly to Earthjustice here.

EDIT: Thank you so much for this engaging discussion reddit! Have a great evening, and thank you again for your support.

Comments: 4310 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

SnorffAttacks1831 karma

What powers do the executive orders hold? Does an order for a review mean that an agency must take that as a directive? For instance, does ordering review of the clean power plan basically a legal order to end it?

DrewCEarthjustice1661 karma

Trump’s executive orders have been all over the map. A few of them have actually done something substantive, like the executive order purporting to reverse President Obama’s withdrawal of most of the Arctic and part of the Atlantic Oceans from availability for offshore oil drilling (about which we promptly sued the president). But many of the other executive orders have looked more like excuses to hold a media event, because an executive order wasn’t necessary to accomplish what the executive order did. For example, last month the president signed an executive order mandating a review of previous presidents’ designation of national monuments. National monument designations are incredibly valuable, so President Trump shouldn’t be questioning them. But all the executive order did was order the Interior Department to do an internal review about the monument designations. The president didn’t need to sign an executive order to accomplish such a review. Heck, he could have had a White House intern call the Interior Department and convey the directive to do the review that way. It’s hard not to read executive orders like that as an exercise in posturing to a small number of anti-monument idealogues.

Adam_df1053 karma

Are you still litigating over Dakota Access? If you are, is that a prudent use of charitable assets given that the odds of prevailing are between slim and none?

DrewCEarthjustice1027 karma

We are still litigating over the Dakota Access Pipeline. We may or may not win the case. But we don’t give up until the case is over, and the case isn’t over. Whether or not we succeed in stopping the pipeline, the case has been incredibly valuable. It’s galvanized unity and empowerment among Native American groups. Things will never be the same in the fight for Native American rights, thanks to the courage and commitment of the Standing Rock Sioux. It has been an honor for Earthjustice to represent them.

xxmatzarxx912 karma

So you guys are suing Trump for these acts against the environment, of which he's used executive orders to do so. Since you guys are merely suing, does this actually stop the executive order from being executed? Or is there only a fine? What are Trumps repercussions for you guys winning a lawsuit?

DrewCEarthjustice1156 karma

Our goal in filing the lawsuits is to get court orders reversing the illegal actions. For example, in our challenge to Trump’s order that purports to overturn Obama’s withdrawal of most of the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic Oceans from availability for offshore oil drilling, our goal is to get a court order declaring Trump’s action illegal and invalid, which would have the effect of confirming the protection of these ocean waters against oil drilling.

My_New_Main512 karma

Were Obama's orders illegal? I don't see how undoing one executive order via means of a different order made later is illegal.

DrewCEarthjustice2107 karma

The law in question, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), gives the president authority to withdraw areas from availability for offshore drilling. That’s what Obama did when he protected most of the Arctic and part of the Atlantic. It was plainly legal for him to do so, and no one has challenged it. While OCSLA gives the president authority to withdraw areas from availability for oil drilling, it doesn’t give the president authority to reverse those withdrawals. That authority rests with Congress, and Trump’s effort to grab it for himself violated both OCSLA and the constitutional separation of powers. Which is why we sued.

badaboopdedoop121 karma

What exactly was illegal about his actions? If Obama had the authority to make those areas unavailable to drilling, doesn't the next President have the authority to reverse that decision?

I looked on your website for info about why it's illegal, but all that seems to say is "artic drilling is bad, mmkay".

DrewCEarthjustice146 karma

Posting again: The law in question, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), gives the president authority to withdraw areas from availability for offshore drilling. That’s what Obama did when he protected most of the Arctic and part of the Atlantic. It was plainly legal for him to do so, and no one has challenged it. While OCSLA gives the president authority to withdraw areas from availability for oil drilling, it doesn’t give the president authority to reverse those withdrawals. That authority rests with Congress, and Trump’s effort to grab it for himself violated both OCSLA and the constitutional separation of powers. Which is why we sued.

FS4JQ369 karma

Why didn't you sue Barack Obama?

It wasn’t Trump, but Obama, who held the reins of the federal government and did nothing while drinking water contamination poisoned the people of Flint, Michigan.

It was Obama who expanded offshore oil drilling while paying lip service to environmental responsibility in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill

It was Obama who signed off on new oil pipelines, approving the construction of the equivalent of 10 Keystone pipelines between 2010 and 2015 alone. Oil and gas shipments by rail continued under his watch.

It was Obama who directed his Department of Interior to attempt to ban fracking on tribal and federal lands while simultaneously taking large campaign donations from the very oil and gas companies involved in fracking. In fact, Obama took in nearly $2 million in campaign donations in 2008 and 2012 from companies that directly benefited from his administration’s focus on the development of domestic energy production, largely from fracking.

So.....why, after 8 years of anti-environmental policies from the previous president are you suddenly pretending to care?

DrewCEarthjustice681 karma

Earthjustice filed hundreds of environmental lawsuits against the Obama administration, including many over the issues you list. For example, we filed a series of lawsuits against offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, which resulted in the oil industry’s decision to pull out of the Arctic Ocean. And we sued the Obama administration over various oil and gas pipelines, including the Dakota Access Pipeline. There are many other examples of lawsuits we filed against the Obama administration to protect the environment. It’s not unusual that we’re suing the Trump administration over the environment – we do that against every presidential administration. What is unusual about the Trump administration is how bad their policies are for the environment, basically across the board; how swiftly they’ve moved to act against the environment so early in the administration; and how cavalier they’ve been about not following the law as they’ve taken their anti-environment actions.

Jjmcgrayy332 karma

Aren't there already pipes in the area where the Dakota pipeline is being proposed?

If so. Why is THIS pipeline so different/Bad?

DrewCEarthjustice348 karma

The Dakota Access pipeline would cross the Missouri River a half mile upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. An oil spill would be catastrophic to the tribe and its members. The original pipeline path was supposed to cross the river just upstream of Bismarck, North Dakota, but it was moved to just upsteam of the reservation. That is an injustice, especially coming in the wake of centuries of injustice perpetrated against Native Americans. Finally, if we already have as many pipelines as you suggest, we certainly don’t need another one that will have to be paid for by many years of increased fossil fuel production. Instead, we need to move toward cleaner and smarter energy, for economic as well as environmental reasons.

quyax270 karma

Who pays you?

DrewCEarthjustice145 karma

In addition to grants from foundations, it's the thousands of generous, big-hearted Earthjustice donors who make our work possible. We represent hundreds of environmental groups every year, but we never charge for our legal services. That means we give away for free millions of dollars of high quality legal services every year. We’re able to do so because of our supporters, who are critical members of the Earthjustice team. If you’re already supporting Earthjustice, thank you for making our work possible! If you’re not yet a supporter but are interested in what we do, please consider joining us. In some cases in which we file and win lawsuits against the federal government, we can recover attorney fees from the federal government. But those attorney fee recoveries are only a small part of our budget (around five percent or less). The great bulk of our budget comes from our wonderful donors, who make everything we do possible.

pfeifits151 karma

Can you explain how the question of standing affects your litigation? Specifically with something like drilling in the arctic or mining on public lands, how does the question of standing get hashed out in your cases?

DrewCEarthjustice262 karma

Let’s take drilling in the Arctic as an example of how standing works in environmental lawsuits. In order to file a lawsuit, you have to have a personal stake in the matter. In the Arctic drilling cases, our clients are organizations whose members use the Arctic Ocean for fishing or whale watching or a host of other activities that would be harmed if there was a giant oil spill in the Arctic Ocean, one of the worst places in the world to have an oil spill. That potential harm to our clients’ interests is what gives them legal standing to sue. And that legal doctrine allows our clients to hold the federal government accountable for following the law by taking the government to court. It’s an incredibly important and valuable system of checks and balances that forces the government to be accountable to ordinary citizens.

polarbeargarage106 karma

I don't intend this to be a frivolous question, but if an action (say, dismantling the Clean Air Plan) has a negative impact on everyone who breathes, doesn't everyone with lungs have standing? Can a lawsuit be mounted on behalf of human life?

DrewCEarthjustice184 karma

The nature of an environmental dispute can affect the number of people who have standing to sue. For example, a mining proposal that would harm a place that only a few dedicated hikers visit might have a relatively small number of people with standing to sue over it. On the other hand, a wide-ranging proposal to weaken protections for clean air might have a large community of air-breathers with standing to sue.

Arctic_Wolf_lol119 karma

I suspect your inbox is probably flooded, but if you find it possible to answer my question is this: why is it a bad thing to resume drilling in the Arctic if the oil is going to be claimed anyways? I personally would rather see my own country profit from it than Norway, Denmark, the UK, Russia, and other foreign nations. While I 100% agree with you on the other topics, and I even acknowledge the dangers and detriments to the environment that Arctic drilling will have, it's not like other nations are simply going to let it sit untapped. Though perhaps I am misunderstanding something, which is in fact why I'm asking the question. I'm no fan of Trump, but I don't think he's wrong in this particular decision, at least given my current level of understanding on the issue.

DrewCEarthjustice104 karma

There has never been offshore oil production in America’s Arctic Ocean, and there never should be, for three groups of reasons. It’s a valuable and fragile place, home to whales and other ocean wildlife that don’t mix well with offshore oil drilling. It’s one of the worst places in the world to have an oil spill, given the extreme weather and distance from Coast Guard stations and infrastructure needed for clean-up. And the Arctic is the part of our planet that may be suffering the most from climate change – it would add insult to injury to drill for oil in the Arctic and then burn the oil in order to further heat up the climate and hurt the Arctic even more. Our nation and our planet are moving toward new and better sources of clean energy. The solution to our energy problems is to accelerate the transition to cleaner energy, not drill for oil at the ends of the Earth in places where we’ve never even produced oil before.

Rorrif100 karma

Do you have any recommendations on what an everyday dude can do to stop/slow the DOI from reverting recently designated National Monuments? I see the public comment period starts on the 12th, so I will definitely be doing that. Any other ideas?

DrewCEarthjustice109 karma

I’m so glad you’ll be filing a comment. That’s a great place to start. Telling your senators and member of Congress that you want them to protect all national monuments is another important step. Writing to Secretary Zinke, which you can do on Earthjustice’s website, is another great action you can take.

Millerboycls0967 karma

Do you think anything would happen with this lawsuit, or will it just get added to his already massive pile of lawsuits?

DrewCEarthjustice152 karma

The American system of laws and courts is a wonderful thing. Everyone has to follow the law – I have to follow the law, you have to follow the law, and President Trump has to follow the law. When someone doesn’t, ordinary citizens can go into court and seek to hold them accountable. That’s what we’re doing at Earthjustice to fight back against the Trump administration’s illegal actions. And we will get decisions from the courts on all these cases. The wheels of justice sometimes turn a little slowly, but they do turn. One of the great things about filing public interest environmental lawsuits is that you generally get a ruling, up or down.

fantumn60 karma

Where did you do your environmental law degree?

DrewCEarthjustice51 karma

I went to Yale Law School.

acatherder58 karma

Could you explain a bit more about how the Trump administration is trying to undo various public protections? Are they declining to enforce federal regulations? or trying to change the regulations?

DrewCEarthjustice90 karma

So far they have mostly been focused on trying to (illegally) reverse pro-environment actions taken by President Obama. Examples of this include their attempted reversing of the federal coal leasing moratorium adopted by President Obama in early 2016, and their attempted to reverse President Obama’s withdrawal of most of the Arctic Ocean and important parts of the Atlantic Ocean from availability for offshore oil leasing. We’ve filed lawsuits against both those Trump administration actions, which violate the National Environmental Policy Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act respectively.

SaltyExplorer44 karma

Is there a lot of precedent for independent law firms like yours challenging the powers that be and winning? What would be the tipping point in moving toward victory? A higher court taking on your case? There must be thousands of lawsuits against trump that will never see the light of day.

DrewCEarthjustice127 karma

We win a lot more cases than we lose, which is amazing when you consider the political and economic power of our adversaries in court – the federal government, the oil industry, the coal industry, many other industries, many state governments. We’re David against Goliath, and fortunately David wins a lot. As a result, there are wild places and wild species that wouldn’t exist, at all or in their current condition, except for Earthjustice lawsuits. And there are children who are breathing cleaner air and drinking cleaner water than they would otherwise. We believe that the law can make the world a better place, and we work every day to make that happen.

Gld4neer43 karma

Who pays for all these billable hours?

DrewCEarthjustice77 karma

The thousands of generous, big-hearted Earthjustice donors who make our work possible. We represent hundreds of environmental groups every year, but we never charge for our legal services. That means we give away for free millions of dollars of high quality legal services every year. We’re able to do so because of our supporters, who are critical members of the Earthjustice team. If you’re already supporting Earthjustice, thank you for making our work possible! If you’re not yet a supporter but are interested in what we do, please consider joining us.

In some cases in which we file and win lawsuits against the federal government, we can recover attorney fees from the federal government. But those attorney fee recoveries are only a small part of our budget (around five percent or less). The great bulk of our budget comes from our wonderful donors, who make everything we do possible.

diggtrucks102529 karma

When you take someone as high profile as the president to court, do they actually show up?

DrewCEarthjustice99 karma

When we sue any government official, including the president, they don’t have to come to court personally. They are represented by the United States Department of Justice, which goes to court on their behalf. But the key thing is not whether they have to go to court personally – the key is that they have to comply with the court order, and we regularly get great results for the environment and public health when we sue the federal government and win.

irena_gorski21 karma

How has your work changed from working for NRDC to working for Earthjustice? And do you have any advice for a scientist who wants to work for these organizations?

DrewCEarthjustice40 karma

I’ve been fortunate to work for both Earthjustice and NRDC, two of the most effective environmental groups in the world. I’m proud that NRDC is one of Earthjustice’s clients. My advice to any scientist who wants to work with either organization is to go for it, because having access to great scientific capacity is critical to both organizations. In advocacy work, it’s critical that scientists have both technical and advocacy skills. Including the ability to translate technical concepts into language that is understandable and compelling to laypeople (such as judges).

irena_gorski7 karma

Hello Drew, I am a HUGE fan of Earthjustice - thank you so much for doing this AMA! Can you explain to me how the roles of scientists, lawyers, etc. come together in your projects/lawsuits, possibly via an example?

DrewCEarthjustice6 karma

Many environmental cases involve disputed questions of science or other technical matters. Our team of lawyers works with scientists around the nation to analyze questions from a technical perspective and explain to courts when the government has ignored or flubbed the science in a case. And we’re currently advertising to hire a small number of scientists to join our team – feel free to help us by getting the word out! http://earthjustice.org/about/jobs

eecnaV6 karma

Hi there and thanks for this AMA! I am currently an undergrad pursuing a BS in environmental Sustainability with a minor in GIS. I have been thinking about law school to do exactly what it is you're doing, environmental law. I was just curious about your pre and post grad schooling and what it was that made you want to be what you are today. And also, what steps should students like me take to make a career out of environmental law? Thanks again!

DrewCEarthjustice4 karma

In college, I studied history and was inspired by the work of Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department to attack racial segregation and injustice by filing and winning lawsuits. It showed me that the law and courts can make the world a better place. I’ve been grateful to be able to work since then to use the law and the courts to try to make America a cleaner, greener, fairer place by filing lawsuits to protect public health and the environment.

To make a career out of environmental law, I don’t think it matters what you study in college – just work hard at it and get good grades, to maximize the choices you have in selecting a law school. In law school itself, I favor classes that help build core lawyering skill, like understanding how courts operate and honing skills in clear, analytic, persuasive writing and clear oral expression. Summer jobs and term-time externships at places you might want to work after graduation are huge opportunities during law school to try out different jobs and create a network of contacts in the environmental community. I hope you succeed and that we have a chance to work together sometime in the future!

Flemtality5 karma

Is there a precedent for someone suing a sitting POTUS and winning?

DrewCEarthjustice17 karma

Yes. Probably the most famous example is from the 1950s. President Truman seized the nation’s steel mills because of an impending strike. The mills sued the president over the seizure. The courts ruled that the president acted illegally in seizing the mills and reversed Truman’s action.

When we sue the government, we rarely sue the president as an individual. That’s because the actions we challenge are usually taken by a federal department or agency, so we sue the head of the department or agency. But when the president himself takes an illegal action, we sue him as an individual. President Trump himself took the action to try to reverse President Obama’s protection of most of the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic Oceans from offshore oil drilling, so our lawsuit against that action is League of Conservation Voters v. Trump.

red_autumn_luna5 karma

What’s happening with the Dakota Access Pipeline? Are they going to start pumping oil through it soon?

DrewCEarthjustice9 karma

Earthjustice has the great honor of representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its challenge to the Dakota Access pipeline. We’ve moved for summary judgment in our case against the pipeline. The case has been fully briefed for about a month, but the judge hasn’t scheduled a hearing yet, though he may rule without one. We’ve asked the court to vacate the permit for the pipeline to run under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, which would make the Dakota Access company turn off the pipeline. As for when oil might flow, we don’t know anything more than what Dakota Access has told the media, which is that they intend to start production on the 14th or 15th of May. The case is incredibly important in the fight for Native American rights.

ItinerantMonkey4 karma

How can everyday citizens help with your lawsuit? Is there a place we can donate funds, volunteer time, provide information, etc? Would collecting signatures from the general public showing support of your lawsuit help?

DrewCEarthjustice4 karma

We really appreciate offers of help from the public. We absolutely could not do this work without you. If you'd like, you can go to our website and take an "action" (sign a petition, write to your representatives) on many of these issues. You can also make a donation, which will go toward paying litigators.

urbanek25254 karma

Have you considered asking Sally Yates if she'd be interested in joining your team?

I'm sure she'd love to take a few more cracks at this administrations over-reaches. She might do it just for shits and grins.

DrewCEarthjustice5 karma

Sally Yates is a former federal prosecutor, as am I. She was a dedicated public servant and someone who understood and acted on the principle of the rule of law. I have the greatest respect for her and her service to our nation. EDIT: Fixed a typo

Cr4id4 karma

Are you afraid of repercussions by the current administration?

DrewCEarthjustice5 karma

Well, I’m afraid of the consequences for the environment of this administration’s policies. The Trump administration is the most anti-environment presidency since the dawn of the environmental movement in the 1960s and 1970s. They’ve already done considerable harm, and they’re setting up to do much more. So yes, those are repercussions I’m afraid of.

kingofdakota2 karma

What, exactly, are the illegal acts committed by Herr Drumft?

Is this just a disagreement over policy or has the administration actually committed crimes?

DrewCEarthjustice19 karma

The Trump administration is only a little over 100 days old, but it already has a lousy track record of following the law. On issues beyond the environment, it’s hard not to note that the president’s batting record in court (on things like the travel ban) is pretty darn bad. On environmental issues, illegal actions taken by the Trump administration so far include illegally lifting the federal coal leasing moratorium without environmental analysis or disclosure (which we have sued over in federal court in Montana), illegally reversing offshore oil drilling protections in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans (which we have sued over in federal court in Alaska), and illegally refusing to ban chlorpyrifos, a major pesticide linked to brain damage in children (which we have challenged in the federal appeals court in California). We don’t have rulings in those cases yet, because the wheels of justice usually turn pretty deliberately, but it’s a very discouraging record of illegal, anti-environment action so early in an administration.

2monkeysandafootball-3 karma

Why can't you answer the 1st question about Obama?

TouristsOfNiagara4 karma

He answered that question before anyone asked it:

Donald Trump has tried to do more harm to the environment in his first 100 days than any other president in history

DrewCEarthjustice9 karma

Answered above.