OCE News

What have we done for you lately? 

See below for some highlights of recent media coverage of OCE Foundation's achievements, as well as information on our current advocacy work.

We are constantly developing cases and campaigns, engaging with communities impacted by pollution, and working toward cleaner and healthier ecosystems to help humans and wildlife thrive. Our lawsuits and other advocacy efforts focus on protecting the most vulnerable, especially children, seniors, and threatened species. 

Follow us on social media for updates on what we're reading, researching, thinking about, and other musings about why we do what we do.

June 2017:  Pregnant sea turtle found injured, rescued in Palm Beach The turtle weighs nearly 200 pounds and was identified as a female with eggs, according to the Loggerhead MarineLife Center in Jupiter. Smiley suffered a deep wound to her neck muscle making it difficult for her to lift her neck to breathe while swimming. She said it’s not a typical turtle injury. The wound appears to be at least a few days old since they found maggots in it. Smiley’s caretakers are optimistic she’ll survive, but can’t say for sure if she will. “She’s staying in the hospital to make sure she doesn’t drown,” Clark said. Ivy Yin, a photographer with Our Children’s Earth Foundation was driving on South Ocean Boulevard and documented the turtle rescue.  Earlier this week, a kogia whale beached herself near Reef Road and Yin found it. It’s sea turtle nesting season and local organizations and residents make sure turtles have a safe beach to nest on by scheduling beach cleanups. Bacteria in the water, storm-water runoff and trash can harm sea life. “We have such pretty beaches,” Yin said. “But we have serious issues to address.” Read more here.

June 2017: 

Pregnant sea turtle found injured, rescued in Palm Beach

The turtle weighs nearly 200 pounds and was identified as a female with eggs, according to the Loggerhead MarineLife Center in Jupiter.

Smiley suffered a deep wound to her neck muscle making it difficult for her to lift her neck to breathe while swimming. She said it’s not a typical turtle injury. The wound appears to be at least a few days old since they found maggots in it.

Smiley’s caretakers are optimistic she’ll survive, but can’t say for sure if she will.

“She’s staying in the hospital to make sure she doesn’t drown,” Clark said.

Ivy Yin, a photographer with Our Children’s Earth Foundation was driving on South Ocean Boulevard and documented the turtle rescue. 

Earlier this week, a kogia whale beached herself near Reef Road and Yin found it.

It’s sea turtle nesting season and local organizations and residents make sure turtles have a safe beach to nest on by scheduling beach cleanups. Bacteria in the water, storm-water runoff and trash can harm sea life.

“We have such pretty beaches,” Yin said. “But we have serious issues to address.”

Read more here.

 

 
August 2016:  Environmental Groups Win National Victory for Clean Water The agreement marks the first time that EPA will evaluate setting numeric standards and practices for responsible stormwater retention at industrial sites.  Stormwater retention is a green infrastructure practice that involves holding water and sediment on site through features like bioswales and rain gardens.  Keeping and treating stormwater on site instead of discharging it into the nearest river improves water quality and slows erosion in smaller creeks and rivers.  Another first time outcome of the settlement is EPA’s agreement to propose restrictions on the use of coal tar sealants in the United States, a product that is poisoning ecosystems nationwide and exposing infants and children to a high risk of developing cancer later in life.  Read more here.

August 2016: 

Environmental Groups Win National Victory for Clean Water

The agreement marks the first time that EPA will evaluate setting numeric standards and practices for responsible stormwater retention at industrial sites.  Stormwater retention is a green infrastructure practice that involves holding water and sediment on site through features like bioswales and rain gardens.  Keeping and treating stormwater on site instead of discharging it into the nearest river improves water quality and slows erosion in smaller creeks and rivers. 

Another first time outcome of the settlement is EPA’s agreement to propose restrictions on the use of coal tar sealants in the United States, a product that is poisoning ecosystems nationwide and exposing infants and children to a high risk of developing cancer later in life. 

Read more here.

 

 
July 2014:  Sewage in San Francisco Bay: Settlement reached to prevent overflows Over the past 10 years, about 2.4 billion gallons of partially treated sewage has entered the bay, said Jared Blumenfeld, an EPA regional administrator. “For many years, the health of San Francisco Bay has been imperiled by ongoing pollution, including enormous discharges of raw and partially treated sewage from communities in the East Bay,” Blumenfeld said. “Many of these discharges are the result of aging, deteriorated sewer infrastructure that will be fixed under the EPA order.” Along with spreading disease-causing organisms that can threaten public health, the raw and untreated sewage can deplete oxygen in the 1,600-square-mile bay and hurt fish, migratory birds and other wildlife. “It’s more of ‘death by 1,000 cuts’ in terms of impact to the bay,” said Deb Self, executive director of San Francisco Baykeeper, which was among those that brought the legal action to enforce the Clean Water Act.  Others behind the lawsuit were the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board and the Our Children’s Earth Foundation. Under the agreement, EBMUD, the Stege district and the cities will assess and upgrade their sewer system infrastructure, including at EBMUD’s three wet water treatment facilities. Read more here.

July 2014: 

Sewage in San Francisco Bay: Settlement reached to prevent overflows

Over the past 10 years, about 2.4 billion gallons of partially treated sewage has entered the bay, said Jared Blumenfeld, an EPA regional administrator.

“For many years, the health of San Francisco Bay has been imperiled by ongoing pollution, including enormous discharges of raw and partially treated sewage from communities in the East Bay,” Blumenfeld said. “Many of these discharges are the result of aging, deteriorated sewer infrastructure that will be fixed under the EPA order.”

Along with spreading disease-causing organisms that can threaten public health, the raw and untreated sewage can deplete oxygen in the 1,600-square-mile bay and hurt fish, migratory birds and other wildlife.

“It’s more of ‘death by 1,000 cuts’ in terms of impact to the bay,” said Deb Self, executive director of San Francisco Baykeeper, which was among those that brought the legal action to enforce the Clean Water Act. 

Others behind the lawsuit were the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board and the Our Children’s Earth Foundation.

Under the agreement, EBMUD, the Stege district and the cities will assess and upgrade their sewer system infrastructure, including at EBMUD’s three wet water treatment facilities.

Read more here.

 

 
August 2010: Settlement Reached with City and County of Honolulu to Address Wastewater Collection & Treatment Systems The settlement which also resolves lawsuits brought by the Sierra Club, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends and Our Children’s Earth Foundation, includes a comprehensive compliance schedule for the city to upgrade its wastewater collection system by June 2020. Under the settlement, the Honouliuli wastewater treatment plant will need to be upgraded to secondary treatment by 2024. The Sand Island plant will need to be upgraded by 2035, but could be extended to 2038 based on a showing of economic hardship. Work on the wastewater collection system will include rehabilitation and replacement of both gravity and force main sewer pipes, backup strategies to minimize the risks of force main spills, a cleaning and maintenance program, improvements to Honolulu’s program to control fats, oils and grease from entering into the wastewater system from food establishments, and repair to pump stations. “Today’s settlement represents a significant commitment that will address the city and county of Honolulu’s aging wastewater collection and treatment systems,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The end result will not just be an improvement to the system’s infrastructure. It will also significantly reduce both the public health risk caused by exposure to pathogens in raw sewage and the amount of harmful pollutants entering Honolulu’s vibrant marine environment.” Read more here.

August 2010:

Settlement Reached with City and County of Honolulu to Address Wastewater Collection & Treatment Systems

The settlement which also resolves lawsuits brought by the Sierra Club, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends and Our Children’s Earth Foundation, includes a comprehensive compliance schedule for the city to upgrade its wastewater collection system by June 2020. Under the settlement, the Honouliuli wastewater treatment plant will need to be upgraded to secondary treatment by 2024. The Sand Island plant will need to be upgraded by 2035, but could be extended to 2038 based on a showing of economic hardship.

Work on the wastewater collection system will include rehabilitation and replacement of both gravity and force main sewer pipes, backup strategies to minimize the risks of force main spills, a cleaning and maintenance program, improvements to Honolulu’s program to control fats, oils and grease from entering into the wastewater system from food establishments, and repair to pump stations.

“Today’s settlement represents a significant commitment that will address the city and county of Honolulu’s aging wastewater collection and treatment systems,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The end result will not just be an improvement to the system’s infrastructure. It will also significantly reduce both the public health risk caused by exposure to pathogens in raw sewage and the amount of harmful pollutants entering Honolulu’s vibrant marine environment.”

Read more here.

September 2016:  Environmental groups signal intent to sue St. Pete after sewage dump Suncoast Waterkeeper, Inc., Our Children’s Earth Foundation and the Ecological Rights Foundation filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue for violating the federal Clean Water Act. The groups want the city to undergo sewage system upgrades and to fund “environmental mitigation projects.” “St. Petersburg’s recent extraordinarily large sewage discharges to Tampa Bay have caused serious human health risks and environmental damage. The needed infrastructure improvements are urgent, the ecological impacts will take a long time to heal, as will the damage to the public’s confidence, shaken by the city’s failure to notify and warn the public of these spills. The systemic improvements required to address these shortcomings are significant and will benefit from citizen participation and oversight,” the groups said in a press release. The groups acknowledged the city has admitted its failures and promised to improve sewage systems. While the groups called that, “a positive and welcome step,” they also said it’s not enough. “St. Pete does not have a good record of addressing the root causes of the ongoing sewage system problems. Citizen suit enforcement is needed because the legal system functions differently, and in many cases more efficiently, than the political system.” Read more here.

September 2016: 

Environmental groups signal intent to sue St. Pete after sewage dump

Suncoast Waterkeeper, Inc., Our Children’s Earth Foundation and the Ecological Rights Foundation filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue for violating the federal Clean Water Act. The groups want the city to undergo sewage system upgrades and to fund “environmental mitigation projects.”

“St. Petersburg’s recent extraordinarily large sewage discharges to Tampa Bay have caused serious human health risks and environmental damage. The needed infrastructure improvements are urgent, the ecological impacts will take a long time to heal, as will the damage to the public’s confidence, shaken by the city’s failure to notify and warn the public of these spills. The systemic improvements required to address these shortcomings are significant and will benefit from citizen participation and oversight,” the groups said in a press release.

The groups acknowledged the city has admitted its failures and promised to improve sewage systems. While the groups called that, “a positive and welcome step,” they also said it’s not enough.

“St. Pete does not have a good record of addressing the root causes of the ongoing sewage system problems. Citizen suit enforcement is needed because the legal system functions differently, and in many cases more efficiently, than the political system.”

Read more here.

 

 
January 2015:  Stanford considering the fate of century-old dam threatening endangered trout In 1892, a private company built the dam and created the Searsville Reservoir, hoping to make a new source of water for San Francisco. There was a small problem: the water that pooled up in the Reservoir was undrinkable.  The solution: Searsville Lake! For decades, people flocked there to swim and boat. In the meantime, Stanford acquired the 1,200 acres surrounding the dam to study things like local plant life, animals, and air quality. To protect that research, in 1975, the university made the land off-limits to the public.  Today, Searsville Lake is more of a marsh, almost completely full of sediment that people wouldn’t want to swim in. Steelhead trout, on the other hand, would love to swim in it – if they could get there. And that’s what Sproul says the environmental groups want to see. First, they want Stanford to stop taking water out of the creek. “And we also want them to allow fish passage past Searsville Dam back up to the upper watershed. [There are] various ways they could do that. Taking out the dam would be the best,” says Sproul. Read more here.

January 2015: 

Stanford considering the fate of century-old dam threatening endangered trout

In 1892, a private company built the dam and created the Searsville Reservoir, hoping to make a new source of water for San Francisco. There was a small problem: the water that pooled up in the Reservoir was undrinkable. 

The solution: Searsville Lake! For decades, people flocked there to swim and boat. In the meantime, Stanford acquired the 1,200 acres surrounding the dam to study things like local plant life, animals, and air quality. To protect that research, in 1975, the university made the land off-limits to the public. 

Today, Searsville Lake is more of a marsh, almost completely full of sediment that people wouldn’t want to swim in. Steelhead trout, on the other hand, would love to swim in it – if they could get there. And that’s what Sproul says the environmental groups want to see. First, they want Stanford to stop taking water out of the creek.

“And we also want them to allow fish passage past Searsville Dam back up to the upper watershed. [There are] various ways they could do that. Taking out the dam would be the best,” says Sproul.

Read more here.

 

 
November 2013:  Country’s Largest Public Power Provider Takes Next Major Step to Move Beyond Coal Today the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced it will retire coal boilers at three of its coal plants in Alabama and Kentucky. Retiring these coal boilers means less pollution in the air and water in the southeast U.S. According to the Clean Air Task Force, the Colbert coal plant in Alabama alone contributed to 940 asthma attacks, 83 heart attacks, and 57 deaths per year. These retirements also mean less of the carbon pollution that is pushing our climate to the brink. This is big. It’s a great move for public health, for clean air and water, and for our climate. It will also help protect families across the southeast from rising energy bills as the cost of coal-generated electricity has continued to increase. I applaud TVA and its new president and CEO, Bill Johnson, for their leadership in setting this great American institution on a new course for the twenty-first century. This is also big news for the people of the Tennessee Valley who have been working for years for cleaner air and a healthier environment in the Valley, including our friends at the Southern Environmental Law Center, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, Our Children’s Earth Foundation, and National Parks Conservation Association. Residents, businesses and industries have spoken loud and clear: they want TVA to provide affordable, reliable and clean power. Read more here.

November 2013: 

Country’s Largest Public Power Provider Takes Next Major Step to Move Beyond Coal

Today the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced it will retire coal boilers at three of its coal plants in Alabama and Kentucky. Retiring these coal boilers means less pollution in the air and water in the southeast U.S. According to the Clean Air Task Force, the Colbert coal plant in Alabama alone contributed to 940 asthma attacks, 83 heart attacks, and 57 deaths per year. These retirements also mean less of the carbon pollution that is pushing our climate to the brink.

This is big. It’s a great move for public health, for clean air and water, and for our climate. It will also help protect families across the southeast from rising energy bills as the cost of coal-generated electricity has continued to increase. I applaud TVA and its new president and CEO, Bill Johnson, for their leadership in setting this great American institution on a new course for the twenty-first century.

This is also big news for the people of the Tennessee Valley who have been working for years for cleaner air and a healthier environment in the Valley, including our friends at the Southern Environmental Law Center, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, Our Children’s Earth Foundation, and National Parks Conservation Association.

Residents, businesses and industries have spoken loud and clear: they want TVA to provide affordable, reliable and clean power.

Read more here.

 

Current Campaigns


Governmental Transparency & Public Advocacy

Throughout its history, OCE has successfully challenged and exposed governmental agencies that fail to meet their responsibility to protect and serve the public. This anti-corruption and pro-transparency work reflects our commitment to educate communities about environmental issues, to investigate noncompliant and negligent polluters, to enforce environmental laws and regulations, and to encourage reform at the highest levels of government. From its start, OCE has built a strong reputation as an effective public interest watchdog by enforcing laws that require governmental agencies to disclose key information about how they manage our natural resources.

OCE is committed to holding publicly-funded agencies and governmental staff accountable to ensure that the public interest remains a central component of our democracy. We fight for full enforcement of public disclosure laws like the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), including the provision that records be provided without charge when disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest. In the most recent development in our multi-year legal campaign to get documents from the National Marine Fisheries Service, we beat back the federal government’s attempts to sharply limit when public interest groups could be reimbursed for the time they spend trying to get information from agencies.

For more insight into how we have obtained information from agencies and prevailed in our appeals for fee waivers, or to share your experiences seeking documents from state and federal agencies, please contact us!

 

National Marine Fisheries Service: Stanford’s Searsville Dam & FOIA Backlog

From 2014 until early 2016, OCE took action to obtain key information from federal agencies related to Stanford University’s 125-year old Searsville Dam and other campus water diversions, and the ongoing impacts of these diversions to habitat for threatened steelhead trout. Through multiple FOIA requests and related lawsuits, OCE obtained documents detailing the National Marine Fisheries Service’s past investigations of Stanford University as well as other agency input related to Stanford’s water infrastructure. Our lawsuits also revealed important details about the National Marine Fisheries Service’s internal operations as a publicly-funded agency; how they respond to public records requests, why there have been such extreme delays in our cases, and how the agency has attempted to comply with deadlines for public disclosure. After many months of delay, OCE prevailed. The National Marine Fisheries Service released key documents to us and cleared its longstanding “backlog” of FOIA requests. In February 2016, we also won our appeal for a fee waiver by demonstrating that this work was in the public interest.

 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency / Sewage Discharges to the Pacific Ocean

From 2007 until 2009, OCE led a formal effort to obtain documents from EPA pertaining to the discharge of raw or partially-treated sewage from the City and County of Honolulu's publicly-owned sewage collection and treatment facilities, including the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, the largest wastewater treatment plant in Hawaii. OCE recognized that these facilities were seriously violating the Clean Water Act by regularly discharging raw and partially-treated sewage into the Pacific Ocean. We filed requests for public records to document the extent of this problem, and to learn more about any attempts to curtail sewage spills by the City and County of Honolulu. After failing to meet the deadline for responding to OCE’s FOIA, EPA indicated that it was “backlogged,” and eventually responded but withheld key documents. OCE filed a lawsuit in March, 2008 citing EPA’s wrongful withholding of public documents and EPA’s failure to provide OCE with reports in electronic format even though they were readily available. OCE subsequently settled this lawsuit with an agreement requiring EPA to release improperly withheld documents and provide them in electronic format, thus vindicating FOIA's purposes of ensuring open government.

 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency / Air Quality State Implementation Plans

Between 2001 and 2004, OCE was again represented by the Environmental Law & Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law in litigation aimed at requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish information related to regional efforts to meet national air quality standards. The Clean Air Act requires states to develop plans to meet air quality standards, known as State Implementation Plans or “SIPs,” which are submitted to EPA for approval. SIPs describe how states and local air districts will reduce emissions to come into compliance with the Clean Air Act. Each SIP is comprised of many rules which lay out emissions requirements, and SIPs often contain other key elements as well, for example, specific studies on transportation patterns or other emissions-related issues. Previous to our litigation, SIPs were only available in hard-copy form at each regional EPA office. OCE entered agreements with EPA in September 2001 and April 2003 to require the text of each SIP to be placed online, as well as summaries, the federal register citation of EPA’s approval of the SIP, and any other applicable local or state rule number and citation. Publishing this information makes enforcement easier for EPA and public interest groups alike, clarifies which rules are in effect and which have been superseded, and perhaps most importantly, allows the public to understand and become involved in air quality protection in their regions.

 

San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Backlog

In early 2001, OCE, represented by the Environmental Law & Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law, filed suit under the California Public Records Act to force the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to release a backlog of approximately 1,200 “notices of violation” issued to Bay Area industries. BAAQMD agreed to settle the case and turned over the relevant public documents. This unprecedented action illustrated to the public that the Air District was failing to prosecute violators of air pollution laws and forced a significant sea change at BAAQMD. OCE shined a bright light on the BAAQMD’s longstanding inaction and inadequate protection of the public’s health.


Public health concerns at Elkhorn Slough

Our Children's Earth is working to protect public health in the Moss Landing area, where anglers and their families are being exposed to dangerous levels of mercury and PCBs in certain fish tissues, especially leopard shark and bat ray.

California's Office of Environmental Health and Hazards Assessment (OEHHA) recently issued a consumption advisory urging children and women of child-bearing age to avoid eating these species entirely while also limiting consumption of several other species: asian clam, speckled sanddab, and surfperches. 

If you or anyone you know fishes at Elkhorn Slough, please take note of OEHHA's important health guidelines, read OEHHA's full report, fill out the short survey on our Elkhorn page, and contact us with any questions. 

Sarasota Bay in September 2016, when a massive fish kill occurred due to red tide that was likely fueled by millions of gallons of sewage that spilled, overflowed, and was dumped into local waters during storms throughout September. Photo by Our Children's Earth Foundation.

Sarasota Bay in September 2016, when a massive fish kill occurred due to red tide that was likely fueled by millions of gallons of sewage that spilled, overflowed, and was dumped into local waters during storms throughout September. Photo by Our Children's Earth Foundation.

Sick of Sewage in Florida

Our Children's Earth Foundation has a long history of advocacy related to protecting people and ecosystems from one of the more disgusting realities of modern life: sewage pollution. We've brought lawsuits and worked with cities throughout the United States to ensure that aging, leaky, and otherwise inadequate sewage infrastructure is updated, and that impacted residents have a voice in developing solutions. Spills and overflows of raw and partially-treated sewage occur regularly in metropolitan areas, and the worst instances result in massive die-offs of fish, birds, and other animals that rely on nearby waters. We are currently involved in a regional effort in Florida's Tampa Bay area to address sewage system failures that have garnered national and international headlines since mid-2016, when hundreds of millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage were discharged to Tampa Bay, Boca Ciega Bay, and other waters adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Tampa Bay Times, 12.5.2016: Environmental groups sue St. Petersburg over sewage mess

Tampa Bay Times, 9.9.2016: While St. Petersburg waits for sewage details, health risks emerge

New York Times, 9.16.2016: Sewage Overflow Again Fouls Tampa Bay After Storm

The Economist, 10.22.2016: A View from the Bridge: It will take more than just money to get America moving

KQED | QUEST, 5.26.2009: Wastewater Woes: Sewage Spills in SF Bay

St. PetersBlog: Environmental groups sue Gulfport over sewage overflows (coverage at http://saintpetersblog.com/environmental-groups-sue-gulfport-sewage-overflows/)

St. PetersBlog: Environmental groups sue Gulfport over sewage overflows (coverage at http://saintpetersblog.com/environmental-groups-sue-gulfport-sewage-overflows/)

NEWS CHANNEL 8: Environmental groups signal intent to sue St. Pete after sewage dump (coverage at: http://wfla.com/2016/09/29/environmental-groups-signal-intent-to-sue-st-pete-after-sewage-dump/)

NEWS CHANNEL 8: Environmental groups signal intent to sue St. Pete after sewage dump (coverage at: http://wfla.com/2016/09/29/environmental-groups-signal-intent-to-sue-st-pete-after-sewage-dump/)


OCE @ RWF!

We spent October 1 at the Right Whale Festival in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, chatting with kids and parents, and making hundreds of gyotaku-inspired fish prints.

The Right Whale Festival raises local awareness for the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale (E. glacialis), so-named because it was deemed to be the "right" whale to hunt during the height of the whaling industry, because its docile and curious nature made it easy to kill. Sadly, Right Whales were hunted nearly to extinction, and remain in peril. 

The distinctive V-shaped blow of a southern right whale.  2 whales – mother and calf, Date: 14/7/2010, Time: 12 pm, Place: Bay of Islands, Northland, Latitude: -35.21337, Longitude: 174.15665  Photo from Explore Images, Bay of Islands. Courtesy of the New Zealand Department of Conservation via Flickr. 

The distinctive V-shaped blow of a southern right whale. 

2 whales – mother and calf, Date: 14/7/2010, Time: 12 pm, Place: Bay of Islands, Northland, Latitude: -35.21337, Longitude: 174.15665 

Photo from Explore Images, Bay of Islands. Courtesy of the New Zealand Department of Conservation via Flickr

Check out the coverage of the event including a short interview with us via Channel 4 News at: http://www.news4jax.com/news/florida/duval-county/jacksonville-beach/festival-works-to-save-right-whales-from-extinction


Nature is special. 

This is one of OCE's short interviews with cute kids talking about ecological issues. Children tend to intuitively understand the fundamentals of what we need to do to protect the environment and live more sustainably: treat animals with respect and empathy, waste not, keep learning, try to live in harmony with the natural resources and ecosystems that support and sustain life on Earth.

Above all, we must continue to work toward healthy air, water, and ecosystems so that future generations have the chance to thrive in an ever-changing world. As Chester notes, "we have to, we have no choice."