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Think clearly about the future.

Climate Change

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Human-caused climate change is throwing global ecological systems out of balance and is connected to every single issue we work on as an environmental organization, from public health to wildlife protection. Coastal areas are already experiencing the effects of climate change and marine ecosystems are in distress, with warmer and more acidic waters resulting from the ocean absorbing unnatural amounts of carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere. Climate change is truly an existential crisis of global proportions, characterized by a long-term trend of warming, increasing severe weather events such as droughts and floods, wildfires, and rapid acidification of our oceans which have absorbed a huge amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide. We pay for these effects in many ways, and will continue to do so with future generations bearing a disproportionate burden for the harm caused by generations of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Our current course of continued reliance on (and subsidization of) the fossil fuel industry is unsustainable and unjust. We must also acknowledge and address the climate impacts of industrialized agriculture and specifically animal agriculture.

Elected and appointed governmental officials have a fiduciary duty to protect the resources we depend on for life, and leaders of business and industry have power to make a difference for our shared resources, for better or worse. The United States has a critical leadership role to play in the years and decades ahead, and we should encourage our representatives at all levels to work toward policies that address the causes and effects of climate change in meaningful ways. Find and call your representatives today: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials.

Our Children’s Earth Foundation has worked to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change while also putting our health at risk. We have challenged dirty coal plants, fossil fuel refineries, diesel buses, and megafarms that previously enjoyed legal exemptions allowing them to emit volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere. In all our efforts, we push for maximum long-term protections for public health, air quality, and environmental justice. See below for summaries of OCE’s key cases related to protecting our climate for current and future generations alike. Many of our air quality and public health cases also provided a climate benefit; more on those cases is available on our AIR QUALITY page. A full list of OCE’s cases can be found here.

 
PHASING OUT DIRTY DIESEL (2001 - 2009)

PHASING OUT DIRTY DIESEL (2001 - 2009)

Diesel engine exhaust is carcinogenic and contains Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), which are linked to lung conditions including asthma. Premature deaths linked to NOx and other chemicals in dirty diesel have occurred all over the world for generations. Children are particularly susceptible to the negative health effects of diesel fumes. Diesel exhaust contains tiny particles of toxic metals and chemicals that can become lodged in the lungs, and can even penetrate the lungs and enter the blood stream.

Way back in 2001, OCE challenged the Bay Area Air Quality Management District over a rule which would have allowed a tenfold increase in carcinogenic emissions from diesel generators used intermittently for backup sources of energy. As a result of our lawsuit, the Air District rescinded the rule and proposed a vastly improved set of rules to regulate emissions from new and modified sources of air toxics. We achieved greater governmental transparency and improved rules regulating sources of air toxics for communities in San Francisco and surrounding areas.

Then, OCE turned to the issue of diesel buses throughout California, which more than a million kids rely on for daily transportation. California’s Proposition 65 requires businesses to disclose toxic chemicals in the products they purchase and the pollution they release into the environment. Prop 65 focuses on chemicals that have been clearly shown to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. Diesel fumes from idling bus engines seep into the passenger area of buses and expose kids to a concentrated cloud of toxicity. Idling diesel buses are particularly horrendous, as kids often have no choice but to sit and wait on the bus while being exposed to dangerous pollution that can have direct health consequences, and the buses needlessly increase their greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.

OCE partnered with Environmental Law Foundation and Communities for a Better Environment to reduce diesel exhaust emissions from school buses throughout California. Our lawsuits targeted ten companies that operated the majority of the school buses in the state. The case settlements required that thousands of the dirtiest buses would be replaced or retrofitted to protect children’s health and comply with clean air laws. For buses that were not yet retrofitted, our case settlement required disclosure per Prop 65 in for form of large and conspicuous placards on each bus. The largest company among the defendants, Laidlaw Transit, eventually agreed to settlement terms totaling $34.9 million—a record for a Proposition 65 case—to cover the needed retrofits, buy new buses, and to compensate the plaintiff organizations for attorneys’ fees.

CAMPAIGNING AGAINST OIL BURNING "PEAKER" PLANTS

CAMPAIGNING AGAINST OIL BURNING "PEAKER" PLANTS

In 2001, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and U.S. EPA entered into a backroom agreement with Mirant Potrero Power Company to provide power from “peaker” units that exceeded hourly operational limits allowed by law. Peaker units burn oil, making them extremely dirty generators of energy in terms of pollution output. These units are designed to operate only during peak demand, and are equipped with little or no pollution control. Pollution from peakers poses serious health risks to people who live and work in surrounding areas.

Typically, peakers at Mirant’s Potrero power plant operated 200-300 hours per year, but in 2001 some of the peakers operated for more than 875 hours. Along with Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates and Communities for a Better Environment, OCE sued Mirant and other defendants to stop illegal peaker use and force Mirant to install pollution controls for extended use. We also pointed out that the air district violated California’s environmental review law by excluding the public from the planning process and failing to conduct thorough reviews of the environmental impacts of the expanded peaker operation. The City and County of San Francisco also joined the suit. Shortly after filing suit, OCE reached a settlement under which Mirant agreed to stop exceeding the permit limits at the dirty peaker units and to pay $100,000 into a mitigation fund for projects benefiting air quality in Southeast San Francisco.

#RESIST

#RESIST

Like so many organizations, individuals, businesses, states, nations, and other entities, OCE is extremely concerned about the current course of the U.S. government with regard to climate change and environmental policies. OCE is a non-political, non-partisan organization. Healthy children and an inhabitable planet are not political or partisan issues. There is only one major political party in the world which denies the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding human impacts on the global climate. Unfortunately, that political party is located in the United States of America. 

OCE has participated and will continue participating in public protests aimed at raising awareness and putting government officials on notice that We The People demand and expect action to protect our climate, our ecosystems, our water, our air, our health, and our children's futures.

The U.S. has a critical leadership role to play in the years and decades ahead. Please encourage your representatives at all levels to work toward policies to address the causes and effects of climate change in meaningful ways.

Air Quality

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Our Children’s Earth Foundation was founded in the late 1990s and initially focused advocacy efforts on enforcing key laws to protect communities from the impacts of air pollution. Many of our lawsuits have provided multiple benefits to air quality, public health, and climate health. We can all breathe a little easier when citizen groups like OCE and our many ally organizations fight for our laws and ensure that the many governmental entities that regulate air pollution are doing their job. Our CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRAM focuses on achieving significant reductions in greenhouse gases via lawsuits and other forms of advocacy, and our GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PROGRAM focuses on making sure that agencies at all levels consider citizen input and are transparent to the public when they oversee and develop regulations related to protecting our environment.

Communities all over the United States suffer from poor air quality, smog, and toxic air pollution that impacts health in numerous ways. Asthma and other respiratory illnesses are common, especially where air polluters are not held to account for their environmental impacts.

Throughout our history, we have been stalwart in our efforts to prevent and reduce air pollution, so that our children and our children’s children can breathe easier. Among our specialties is analyzing complicated regulations and proceedings by local and state air quality boards, and ferreting out violations that are often difficult to find and understand but extremely high-impact in their implications for air quality and public health. In all of our efforts, we work with impacted communities to ensure long-term improvements to their air. OCE will continue in this fight, as we work to ensure states’ compliance with the Clean Air Act and advocate for updated regulations to monitor and manage the impacts of pollution.

See below for summaries of OCE’s key air-related cases. A full list of OCE’s cases can be found here.

 
STANDING UP TO TVA

STANDING UP TO TVA

Coal-fired power plants emit dangerous air pollution that contributes mightily to the atmosphere carbon glut we are currently experiencing, while also causing respiratory illness in nearby communities, acid rain. Coal plants often pollute waterways as well, with heavy metals like mercury that can accumulate in fish tissues and up the food chain. The Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”) was one of the largest users of coal in America. OCE participated in a lawsuit that lasted for a decade and resulted in a broad-based agreement for pollution reductions at all TVA plants, the payment of billions for upgrades and retrofits at more than 40 coal burning units, the closure of 18 coal fired units, and the reduction of 15 million tons of CO2 emissions. The settlement was a game-changer for the southeast United States, where residents in Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina had dealt with health problems and ecosystem impacts of coal plant emissions for decades. When the case settled, the E.P.A. estimated that the actions required by the settlement would prevent approximately $27 billion dollars in health costs including at least 1,200 premature deaths, 21,000 asthma attacks, and hundreds of cases of bronchitis and heart attacks.

 

ENDING A SMOG POLLUTION TRADING SCHEME IN SOCAL

ENDING A SMOG POLLUTION TRADING SCHEME IN SOCAL

Between 2002 and 2003, OCE partnered with Communities for a Better Environment to bring a series of lawsuits under the Clean Air Act challenging pollution trading violations that resulted in the release of at least 460 tons of a smog-creating pollution in the Los Angeles area. Children who play outdoors in smoggy areas have greatly increased risk for developing asthma. Seniors and people with respiratory problems are also highly vulnerable to smog pollution. The two largest emitters of Nitrogen Oxides (“NOx”) in the area—refineries and power plants—had increased their emissions in the years prior to our action, despite a “pollution trading” program that was endorsed and managed by local air quality boards. Together with our co-plaintiff Communities for a Better Environment, OCE succeeded in ending the illegal and ineffective pollution credit trading scheme, requiring robust public disclosures regarding future air pollution, creating a community fund of $1 million to be used to reduce NOx pollution in hard-hit areas, and requiring compliance with clean air rules moving forward. Perhaps most importantly, these lawsuits significantly reduced smog pollution in the greater Los Angeles area.

REIGNING IN THE ROUNDUP POWER PLANT

REIGNING IN THE ROUNDUP POWER PLANT

Yellowstone National Park is a beloved public asset, and the visitors and wildlife there deserve clean air. In 2003, OCE joined with two Montana-based organizations to appeal a woefully insufficient air pollution permit that Montana state officials had approved for Roundup Power Plant, a coal burning plant located about 160 miles northeast of Yellowstone.

Our coalition of environmental groups was concerned about the carbon dioxide, mercury, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and other hazardous air pollutants. We were also concerned about air quality and visibility in specially protected areas including Yellowstone. Despite the government’s own expert analysis showing that coal emissions are dangerous, initial authorization for the power plant were approved by officials. However, because citizens are empowered to hold government officials accountable when public lands are subjected to pollution violations, a lawsuit led by Earthjustice proceeded through the court system. Eventually, the government withdrew approval for the Roundup Power Plant, which remains on hold pending adequate science-based analysis of the projects impacts to visibility in Yellowstone.

HOLDING BIG AG ACCOUNTABLE

HOLDING BIG AG ACCOUNTABLE

The Clean Air Act requires that polluters get permits and local air quality authorities oversee the permitting program in compliance with federal law. In late 2001, EPA approved an air quality permitting program in the San Francisco Bay Area that was deficient in many ways and strongly opposed by environmental groups, which formed a coalition and sued EPA. We reached a settlement less than a year after filing suit, requiring proper rulemaking actions and deadlines to protect air quality and improve public health outcomes, and we also fought to ensure that agricultural operations be included in the permitting program.

Previous to our lawsuit, California was the only state to prohibit local air districts from requiring air pollution permits for agricultural businesses, making it impossible to adequately measure or manage air emissions from large farms throughout the state. The exemption included massive dairy cow operations in the Central Valley, which can emit more volatile organic compounds into the air than motor vehicles. Farm equipment and harvesting methods contribute to air pollution as well. Thousands of children in California’s agricultural regions suffer from asthma, which is caused and exacerbated by the kinds of agricultural pollution that the state was purposefully ignoring. OCE and several other organizations that participated in the lawsuit argued that EPA had a duty to intervene.

Under the settlement, EPA required California to eliminate its agricultural exemptions for large farms, particularly for diesel water pumps and other forms of air pollution like livestock waste. In the same year that our case settlement was finalized, and as a result of the bright light we shined on ag pollution and the state’s unusually permissive stance toward it, the California Legislature removed the agricultural exemption from state law.

 

 

Oceans & Water

Water is life. Water resources should be used reasonably, beneficially, and sustainably. Aquatic ecosystems are precious and increasingly threatened.

Our water campaigns and lawsuits ensure that clean water rules are enforced for the benefit of humans and wildlife alike.

We are fighting to stop water pollution at the source. Sewage pollution is a blight that continues to impact cities, waterways, and coastal areas. Stormwater “non-point source” pollution, which results from chemicals and other pollutants running off the landscape into waterways during and after rain storms, causes significant harm to rivers and streams and the larger water bodies that they drain into. 

Industrial “point source” pollution loaded with heavy metals and other carcinogens and discharged directly into our rivers, streams, and coastal waters infuses our waters with a toxic slurry of pollution that can persist, accumulate, and magnify in the food web for decades or longer.

Our Children’s Earth Foundation will remain vigilant in protecting our limited and embattled water resources and the life they sustain.

See below for summaries of OCE’s key water-related cases, particularly to protect public health and vulnerable aquatic species. THREATENED SPECIES PROGRAM has also regularly benefitted water quality and aquatic ecosystems. A full list of OCE’s cases can be found here.

 
SICK OF SEWAGE

SICK OF SEWAGE

All over the country, cities have antiquated wastewater systems that are in dire need of repair and upgrades. During and after rain storms, raw and partially-treated sewage overflows and is dumped into nearby waters. Sewage treatment isn’t the easiest topic to engage with, and local politicians often fail to prioritize water infrastructure spending to the detriment of long-term public health and ecosystem health. OCE has developed expertise in cleaning up sewage pollution over the course of 15 years of working on this issue, and we have recently expanded our “Sick of Sewage” campaign from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast (see our Florida Water page for more on our current efforts to clean up Tampa Bay’s sewage systems).

Sewage pollution is not only extremely disgusting; it is extremely dangerous. Raw and partially-treated sewage devastates ecosystems and wildlife, and can carry deadly bacteria that often persist in waters long after a spill occurs. Children and seniors are always particularly vulnerable to infection, but even healthy adults are at risk for serious health consequences from sewage-borne illness and infections.

In all our efforts related to sewage pollution, our goal is to take the issue out of the political arena and ensure that cities agree to a schedule of system upgrades that can be enforced by a court. There are rarely (if ever) effective short-term solutions to major infrastructure problems like sewage system failures. Our long-term approach to sewage pollution has succeeded again and again, and ensures systemic changes that truly address the many interrelated causes of sewage pollution, from sewer lateral maintenance and replacement, inflow and infiltration problems, to capital improvement programs. While each city’s wastewater infrastructure is unique, old and under-maintained sewage systems tend to share these kinds of problems, with predictable results when the systems become overwhelmed during severe wet weather events.

Between 2004 and 2014, OCE litigated against several cities that were polluting the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean waters and beaches. We partnered with other environmental groups in all cases, and resolved the lawsuits after negotiating improvements to wastewater treatment and storage, as well as a specific schedule for necessary upgrades and compliance with the Clean Water Act. In some cases, we also fight for penalties to help deter cities from discharging sewage pollution into waterways and waterbodies, for example, a $1.6 million penalty against the City of Honolulu for serious and ongoing violations of federal law. We also push for maximum monitoring, transparency and citizen input at every stage, adequate staffing of wastewater departments, backup strategies to minimize the risk of force main spills, and the creation of grant funds for community-led projects.

In 2016, following several enormous sewage dumps to Tampa Bay during the rainy season, we re-started this process in Florida, where litigation is currently ongoing against the cities of St. Petersburg and Gulfport.

STORMWATER POLLUTION PREVENTION: PABCO BUILDING PRODUCTS

STORMWATER POLLUTION PREVENTION: PABCO BUILDING PRODUCTS

The San Francisco Bay is beloved by Bay Area communities and admired by visitors. People use it for recreation, to commuting, and the Bay provides habitat to vast array of species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The Bay is the largest estuary on the West Coast. Unfortunately, not all industries or other entities around the San Francisco Bay voluntarily do their part to keep the waters clean and the wildlife healthy. In 2012, OCE brought a Clean Water Act lawsuit against Pabco Gypsum Port in order to clean up the runoff that was going into storm drains and the Redwood Creek Channel, directly adjacent to the San Francisco Bay. We fought to make sure Pabco would comply with all applicable pollution prevention requirements and use best management practices to reduce pollution. The eventual consent decree resolving this lawsuit also requires Pabco to conduct additional sampling of water to demonstrate it is meeting pollution standards, and implement a “Supplemental Environmental Project” or contribute money for another entity to implement a project that benefits local water quality. By negotiating injunctive relief and specific measures and practices in a consent decree, we can ensure compliance, or impose penalties for non-compliance.

NATIONAL PROGRESS TOWARD CLEANER STORMWATER

Along with several other environmental groups including the national Waterkeeper Alliance, OCE helped to develop an agreement with the U.S. EPA regarding a “general permit” for industrial stormwater pollution. This permit applies to thousands of businesses and several industrial sectors, from cement mixing to scrap metal salvage to food processing, and sets certain pollution limits and imposes certain “best management practices” that companies must follow before discharging polluted water. The new agreement will make it easier to determine whether industrial operations are protecting local waters or not, while also clarifying the requirements and expectations for businesses. Furthermore, the agreement includes a commitment by EPA to evaluate setting numeric standards and practices for stormwater retention at industrial sites, and propose restrictions on the use of coal tar sealants, which are carcinogenic.

FLORIDA'S WATER CRISIS

Despite Florida’s long-established water based tourism industry, which has traditionally emphasized activities like boating, fishing, and other forms of recreation, Florida waters are among the most polluted in the nation. Industrial facilities, agricultural businesses, and even local governments have regularly failed to comply with clean water laws, taking Florida’s water and wildlife for granted. Now, Florida residents are fighting for water quality and ecosystem protection through citizen outreach campaigns, legislative advocacy, and lawsuits. OCE has had a presence in Florida for a long time, but in 2016 after several disturbing pollution events, we increased our clean water work throughout the state. First, we took action to address Tampa Bay’s long-term sewage pollution issue. Then, we partnered with local groups including Citizens for Clean Water to help raise awareness and empower communities that are directly impacted by water pollution. We will continue to expand our activities in Florida, and if you have ideas or experiences to share with us, please contact us at admin@ocefoundation.org.

OCE 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, 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
St. PetersBlog 1.6.2017: Environmental groups sue Gulfport over sewage overflows

Threatened Species

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The Endangered Species Act is more than 40 years old, and passed the U.S. Congress with strong bipartisan support. Many species and the habitat areas they depend on have been saved by the protections afforded by this essential law—bald eagles, gray whales, peregrine falcons and several others. Unfortunately, lawmakers and special interests have increasingly expressed disdain for the “burden” of having to care for species that are so embattled that their populations are on the brink of extinction.

Now, we face what scientists are calling the 6th Great Extinction, with more species dying at higher rates than has ever occurred in recorded history. But this time, the extinction event is not caused by a cataclysm affecting global climate and ecosystems, but by generations of unsustainable human activity. More than half of all species of plants and animals are currently on the move due to human-caused climate change, with ecosystems shifting schedules and in some cases crashing, seasons changing, and key habitat areas disappearing. Many studies have shown the manifold and long-term benefits of wildlife habitat preservation and restoration; efforts to protect native wildlife often result in more resilient and productive landscapes, cleaner water and air, a healthy biodiversity in plants and animal species, and high-quality recreational opportunities. Protected floodplains and waterways, creative and regenerative farming practices, restoring diverse native plants to wildlife corridors as well as urban areas, and drastically reduced chemical use are all good examples of this.

As we have done for years, Our Children’s Earth Foundation will continue to stand up for animals, animal rights, and critical wildlife habitat. We will work in all possible ways to preserve critical habitat areas for all critters and especially the most vulnerable among us. We utilize education, advocacy, and litigation to help reach this goal. For more on our wildlife-related education and advocacy work, check out our ENDANGERED EARTH ACTIVITIES and FILM FUND programs, as well as CURRENT CAMPAIGNS. In addition to lawsuits specifically focused on endangered and threatened species, our actions are strategically developed to provide maximum health benefits to humans and wildlife alike, especially in coastal areas. For example, our Sick of Sewage campaign (discussed in more detail on the WATER PROGRAM page) reduces health risk for people while also benefitting coastal ecosystems by forcing cities to reduce and prevent ongoing sewage dumps to coastal waters, which are often deadly to birds, fish, and marine life.

See below for summaries of OCE’s key cases and actions aimed at protecting wildlife and the habitat they need to survive and thrive. A full list of OCE’s cases can be found here.

DON'T DE-LIST THE MANATEES!

DON'T DE-LIST THE MANATEES!

OCE submitted comments in 2014 to strongly discourage the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("USFWS") from reclassifying Florida and Antillean Manatees from "endangered" to "threatened" under the definitions of the U.S. Endangered Species Act. 

As we noted in our letter, after the USFWS 5-year review of manatee status in 2007, USFWS failed to implement basic protections that are necessary for safeguarding manatee habitat for the future, as required for species downlisting. These protections are still not implemented. Furthermore, the science since the 2007 status review shows that manatees of both the Florida and Antillean subspecies face significant, ongoing, and potentially increasing risks from habitat loss, disease, human impacts, and other threats. For example, from 2010-2013 alone, nearly 2,500 manatees died in Florida waters, resulting in the death of 48% of the highest minimum population ever recorded (5,077 in 2010). These facts alone strongly indicate that a reclassification of manatees from endangered to threatened is unwarranted, or at best, extremely premature.

We also pointed out that USFWS cannot assume that threats from watercraft will remain at current levels in the future, for either the Florida or Antillean manatee. Given expected population growth and the historically-established tendency for human populations to concentrate on coastal areas, the threat from watercraft vessels must be expected to increase.

The threat from vessels will definitely increase if manatees are reclassified as threatened rather than endangered. Special interest boating groups and developers have already been clamoring to roll back important protections for manatees (as well as other vulnerable species). The slow-speed zones off the coast of Florida protect manatees from horrific injuries and death due to watercraft. Reclassifying the species will necessarily lift the slow-speed restrictions and result in more and higher-speed boat traffic, that will predictably harm manatees and other marine life. This result would undermine and undo recent progress in protecting remaining habitat areas. 

RESTORING THE S.F. CREEK'S NATIVE STEELHEAD TROUT POPULATION

RESTORING THE S.F. CREEK'S NATIVE STEELHEAD TROUT POPULATION

OCE is encouraging state agencies to require a series of projects in the San Francisquito Creek watershed, which spans from the Santa Cruz mountains to the southern part of the San Francisco Bay. Much of this special watershed is undeveloped and preserved as open space, including most of the headwater streams that feed into the watershed's namesake San Francisquito Creek ("S.F. Creek"). S.F. Creek is perhaps most well-known for a famous redwood tree, El Palo Alto, that grows on its bank and for which the city of Palo Alto is named. 

Locally, S.F. Creek is also famous as one of the last remaining waterways in the entire San Francisco Bay Area that has never been channelized and thus still supports wild steelhead trout. Steelhead are the anadromous (ocean-going) form of o. mykiss. Like salmon, steelhead return to their native streams to reproduce, nourishing surrounding ecosystems in the process. Unlike salmon, steelhead can complete this cycle multiple times, living up to 11 years. Steelhead can grow very large, and can jump over obstacles upwards of 15 feet high. They are beautiful and awe-inspiring even to seasoned anglers, who sometimes call them “gray ghosts” or “this fish of a thousand casts” due to the notorious difficulty of catching a wild steelhead.  

California's wild steelhead have declined 80-90% and have been protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1997. Our campaign to force action and public disclosure of relevant information by the lead federal agency, NOAA / National Marine Fisheries Service, was successful (more about that through our Government Transparency program. We continue to monitor progress toward permitting projects that will restore habitat for the native species that have been in the S.F. Creek and its headwaters for millennia. 

HAWAII DESERVES BETTER

HAWAII DESERVES BETTER

OCE served as a plaintiff in a key lawsuit to prevent sewage dumps from the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment facility near Honolulu and Waikiki. We negotiated a sweeping and long-term agreement to require significant upgrades by deadlines that are enforceable by a court. During OCE's long experience challenging dirty municipal sewage treatment plants, we have found that court-enforceable schedules are by far the best way to ensure that cities will dedicate the significant resources necessary to ensure that their sewage infrastructure is repaired, upgraded, and brought into compliance with environmental laws. 

Sewage pollution is disgusting. It is terrible for water quality and human health, terrible for ecosystems, and terrible for cities and residents especially in coastal areas that often rely on tourism and water-related recreation to help local economies thrive. The most heartbreaking impact of sewage pollution are the deaths that result. Bacteria in untreated or partially treated sewage can be deadly to humans and wildlife alike. Sewage pollution also overloads "nutrients" in water that can exacerbate algae blooms including red tide, which regularly kill fish and sea turtles. Hawaii is literally the endangered species capitol of the world, with its rare ecosystems that have provided a haven for threatened and endangered species including Hawaiian Monk Seal, five species of sea turtles, and thirty species of birds. 

About six years after we filed suit, Honolulu agreed to address Clean Water Act compliance with a schedule that can be enforced by a court, phasing in major upgrades, repairs, and programs by deadlines in 2020-2035. Honolulu was also required to pay a penalty for repeated pollution in violation of federal law, and estimated that the necessary changes to the sewage systems would be several billion dollars, long overdue investments in critical infrastructure of the people (and wildlife) of Oahu. Together with our co-plaintiffs, OCE also insisted that our agreement with Honolulu included preventing millions of gallons of raw sewage from being discharged, and secondary treatment of around 100 million gallons per day. By increasing treatment levels, we ensured that Honolulu will reduce its discharges by 3 million pounds of total suspended solids and 30 millions pounds of biological oxygen demand annually.

Government Accountability

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Citizen advocacy is essential to the function and integrity of all three branches of government in the United States. In addition to regularly serving as a plaintiff in public interest lawsuits, Our Children’s Earth consistently acts as a government watchdog, ensuring that agencies tasked with protecting the environment and public health do their jobs, and insisting that harmful laws and rules are reconsidered and removed as needed.

In this way, we engage with all three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. Some of our government accountability work is “administrative advocacy,” i.e. pushing agencies to properly regulate and prevent pollution, protect public health, and protect threatened species.

Other government accountability work is achieved via lawsuits aimed at enforcing public disclosure requirements at the federal, state, and local levels to maximize governmental transparency. We have developed expertise and a strong track record in the Freedom of Information Act as well as various state laws for public disclosure of governmental records and information relevant to environmental issues.

Throughout all this work, our goal is to ensure that governmental entities are as transparent as possible to the public, and fulfilling their mandates to serve communities rather than special interests.

OCE’s long record of 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 highly effective in forcing governmental agencies to disclose key information about how they manage our natural resources. We hold 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, 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.

See below for summaries of OCE’s key cases and actions aimed at ensuring governmental transparency and accountability at all levels. A full list of OCE’s cases can be found here.

PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OF "SIPs" -- THE BACKBONE OF THE CLEAN AIR ACT

PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OF "SIPs" -- THE BACKBONE OF THE CLEAN AIR ACT

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 AIR QUALITY DISTRICT "BACKLOG"

SAN FRANCISCO AIR QUALITY DISTRICT "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.

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EPA DELAYING DISCLOSURES ABOUT SEWAGE DUMPS 

From 2007 until 2009, OCE led a formal effort to obtain documents from United States Environmental Protection Agency 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.

NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE: SAN FRANCISQUITO CREEK STEELHEAD

NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE: SAN FRANCISQUITO CREEK STEELHEAD

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.

Public Education

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Our Children’s Earth Foundation has always been primarily an advocacy organization, staffed mostly by legal workers with expertise in enforcing environmental laws and advocating for necessary regulations and other actions by environmental agencies to protect our shared resources. However, our organizational mission includes an emphasis on public outreach and education, which we achieve through supporting films, planning and attending outreach events, forging strategic partnerships, and by creating and sharing resources with and from the “super citizens” that are leading environmental advocacy efforts in their communities. Now more than ever, concerned citizens and residents should communicate with officials in our legislatures and agencies, and urge them to take all possible steps toward protecting natural resources, public health, and the environment at large. Information is power, but far too often the legal and regulatory systems that we depend on for environmental protection are effectively closed off to the people they purportedly serve. 

It is especially critical for people in communities impacted most heavily by pollution to be informed about environmental issues and how they can effectively engage with the legal and governmental systems that are in charge of protecting their local resources, ecosystems, and health. Working class people and people of color are by far the most impacted by pollution demographically, and children and seniors are the most vulnerable to suffer serious health problems related to pollution.

See below for informational resources that may be helpful to people who are interested in learning more about environmental issues and advocacy, and/or people who are dealing with pollution and related problems.

Check out our social media pages for posts about upcoming educational events we plan to participate in, and please contact us with suggestions for additional resources to post here, to share your stories, and to JOIN US as a member of Our Children’s Earth.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act (2007) [PDF] New York Public Interest Research Group Fund, Inc. and The Earth Day Coalition, Inc.: The Proof is in the Permit (2000) [PDF] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: AirNow National Air Quality Forecast [WEBSITE]

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act (2007) [PDF]

New York Public Interest Research Group Fund, Inc. and The Earth Day Coalition, Inc.: The Proof is in the Permit (2000) [PDF]

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: AirNow National Air Quality Forecast [WEBSITE]

 
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Endangered Species Act Basics (2013) [PDF] World Wildlife Federation: Living Blue Planet Report (2015) [PDF] Earthjustice: Citizens’ Guide to the Endangered Species Act (2003) [PDF]

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Endangered Species Act Basics (2013) [PDF]

World Wildlife Federation: Living Blue Planet Report (2015) [PDF]

Earthjustice: Citizens’ Guide to the Endangered Species Act (2003) [PDF]

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (2016) [PDF] [WEBSITE] Mom’s Clean Air Force: Ocean Acidification (Armed with the Facts Series) [PDF]

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (2016) [PDF] [WEBSITE]

Mom’s Clean Air Force: Ocean Acidification (Armed with the Facts Series) [PDF]

 
Ohio Environmental Council: A Citizen’s Guide to Clean Water Act Enforcement [PDF] River Network: Clean Water Act Course (2012) [WEBSITE] United States Geological Survey WaterQualityWatch: Continuous Real-Time Water Quality of Surface Water in the United States [WEBSITE]

Ohio Environmental Council: A Citizen’s Guide to Clean Water Act Enforcement [PDF]

River Network: Clean Water Act Course (2012) [WEBSITE]

United States Geological Survey WaterQualityWatch: Continuous Real-Time Water Quality of Surface Water in the United States [WEBSITE]

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Livestock’s Long Shadow (2006) [PDF] [WEBSITE] United States Department of Agriculture, Climate Science Primer [WEBSITE] Risky Business regional reports quantifying economic risks posed by a changing climate (2016) [WEBSITE] NASA’s Earth Minute Series [VIDEO PLAYLIST]

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Livestock’s Long Shadow (2006) [PDF] [WEBSITE]

United States Department of Agriculture, Climate Science Primer [WEBSITE]

Risky Business regional reports quantifying economic risks posed by a changing climate (2016) [WEBSITE]

NASA’s Earth Minute Series [VIDEO PLAYLIST]

Mom’s Clean Air Force: Climate Change and Children’s Health [WEBSITE] World Health Organization: Cost of a Polluted Environment to Children’s Health (2017) [WEBSITE] World Health Organization Infographic: Protecting Children from the Environment [PDF] World Health Organization: Don't pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children's health (2017) [PDF] World Health Organization: Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment (2004) [PDF] Environmental Defense Fund: Asthma & Outdoor Air Pollution in the Latino Community [PDF]   

Mom’s Clean Air Force: Climate Change and Children’s Health [WEBSITE]

World Health Organization: Cost of a Polluted Environment to Children’s Health (2017) [WEBSITE]

World Health Organization Infographic: Protecting Children from the Environment [PDF]

World Health Organization: Don't pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children's health (2017) [PDF]

World Health Organization: Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment (2004) [PDF]

Environmental Defense Fund: Asthma & Outdoor Air Pollution in the Latino Community [PDF] 

 

 

Endangered Earth Activities

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We are alarmed at the current rates of species loss, ecosystem fragmentation, ocean acidification and all its impacts, and the many extractive and exploitative activities that are increasingly disturbing Earth’s delicately balanced systems.

This planet is essentially a closed system: we may be able to sequester certain kinds of pollution, and we may try to limit certain kinds of damaging activities, but ultimately everything we put into our air, water, or land will have an impact, for better or worse. We are all downstream and downwind of somewhere, and we are all connected.

All over this magnificent planet that we inhabit, threatened species, water quality, native landscapes and plants, and Earth’s other delicate systems are fraught with harmful activities that put our collective future at risk. But there is reason to hope; we’ve seen some extraordinary success stories during recent years when communities, activists, and experts have teamed up to help endangered species and ecosystems on the path toward recovery.

Through education, policy change, incentives, and creativity, we can and do make a difference. “If it is to be, it is up to me.”  

 

Everyone has a role to play through personal decisions and actions, partnerships, activism, land stewardship, animal care, limiting our individual carbon footprints, accumulating knowledge and then paying it forward by sharing our expertise and perspectives with others.

In addition to our other program areas, which often involve lawsuits and advocacy, OCE has embarked on this new program "Endangered Earth Activities," through which we intend to assess key ecosystems and help to raise awareness about the current plight of the natural world as well as what we can do to help. OCE and our partners will gather information, create and share content, learn as much as we can about how to make the most positive change in the most critical areas, and forge partnerships with artists and activists who are on the front lines of environmental protection efforts. 

Very soon we will begin posting content, updates, and reports detailing our experiences and what we learn along the way. If you have an idea or a project proposal related to protecting endangered areas and raising awareness about critical species and ecosystems, please contact us. We want to hear from you!

 
 

OCE Film Fund

Courtesy of Kate Brooks, The Last Animals

Courtesy of Kate Brooks, The Last Animals

OUR CHILDREN'S EARTH FILM FUND supports documentary films that further the mission of Our Children’s Earth Foundation and tackle issues related to environmental conservation, empowerment and activism, cultural compassion and human rights. We believe in the power of film to educate, create empathy, change perceptions, and inspire action on critical issues facing humanity and our planet.

We provide support to film and media projects directly, as well as through funding collaborations that help amplify our work.

 

 

FUNDING PARTNERSHIPS

If you have a documentary film or media project that aligns with our mission, we’d love to hear about it.  Send us a short note describing your project to admin@ocefoundation.org

FEATURED FILM: THE EAGLE HUNTRESS

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Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a 13-year-old girl, trains to become the first female in generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. While there are many old Kazakh eagle hunters who vehemently reject the idea of any female taking part in their ancient tradition, Aisholpan's father, Nurgaiv, believes that a girl can do anything a boy can, as long as she's determined.

New York Times Eagle Huntress Review (November, 2016)

Companion Guide to the Film for Educators [PDF] [WEBSITE]

 

SUPPORTED FILMS