Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Brief Filed to Force Big Tobacco to Finally Tell the Truth about Cigarettes

As part of the United States’ long-running consumer fraud suit against Big Tobacco, the district court ruled that the companies must run television and newspaper advertisements stating that they "deliberately deceived the American public," and then stating the truth regarding the toxicity and addictiveness of cigarettes, as well as their manipulation of cigarette nicotine levels. The statements must also appear on cigarette pack onserts and the companies’ websites. 

The companies appealed to the D.C. Circuit, arguing that such "corrective statements" violate their First Amendment rights. We have just filed a brief defending the district court’s ruling, on behalf of six public health groups, including the American Cancer Society and Tobacco-Free Kids. Our brief explains that the statements are amply supported by the court’s massive factual findings, which show that for decades the companies emphatically denied that smoking is harmful or addictive, while they not only knew these statements were false, but also manipulated cigarettes to ensure they would be addictive – and marketed "light" and "low tar" cigarettes to satisfy demand for a healthier alternative while they knew that these cigarettes are just as addictive and deadly. Oral argument is scheduled for February, 2015. Our brief is here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Lawsuit Filed Seeking Protection for Tiny Owl, Challenging New Policy Restricting Listing of Imperilled Species

On behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife we have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Arizona seeking to overturn the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to list as endangered or threatened the Cactus-Ferruginous Pygmy Owl – an owl that is less than a foot long and is at grave risk of extinction from development and other impacts in the northern portion of its range in Arizona and northern Mexico. Although the Service concedes that the pygmy-owl faces myriad threats in the northern part of its range, and that this portion – called the Sonoran Desert Ecoregion – is important to the species’ conservation, the Service has refused to protect the owl under the Endangered Species Act based on a new Obama Administration policy that says, in effect, that a species must presently be at risk of extinction everywhere it exists in order for the species to gain any protection under the Act. This policy drastically reduces the number of species eligible for protection under the Act and also means that highly endangered populations in the United States will be allowed to go extinct simply because the species may be more abundant elsewhere, in direct contravention of a central objective of the ESA to safeguard wildlife for the benefit of the nation and its citizens. A copy of the Complaint is here and a press release on the lawsuit is here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Brief Filed Asking Court To Dismiss Ranchers’ Suit Seeking Wild Horse Round-Ups

On behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Utah photographer John Steele, and wild horse advocate Lisa Friday, we filed a motion asking the federal district court in Utah to dismiss a case brought by the Western Rangeland Conservation Association and Utah livestock owners against the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The ranchers seek to compel BLM to remove from both public and private lands in Utah hundreds of federally protected wild horses that compete with privately-owned livestock for water and forage on the range.  The livestock owners have “permits” that allow them to graze cattle and sheep on public lands, subsidized by the federal taxpayers. These grazing interests ask the court to order the removal of wild horses even though BLM has not determined that any “excess” wild horses exist in these areas. In its response to the ranchers’ suit, the government denies wild horses are damaging rangeland resources in these areas. A copy of the brief filed seeking dismissal can be found here.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lawsuit Filed Over California Energy Project That Threatens Regional Golden Eagle Population in Southern California

This week, we filed suit in federal court on behalf of the nonprofit Protect Our Communities Foundation and two backcountry landowners and naturalists seeking a court order that would require the Bureau of Indian Affairs to comply with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act in connection with the agency’s authorization of a lease to build an industrial wind energy project on BIA-administered lands in Southern California. Among other concerns, the project’s siting design has been repeatedly criticized by federal and state wildlife agencies as presenting an extremely high risk to federally protected golden eagles – concerns that BIA has never addressed in any public process analyzing the project’s anticipated environmental impacts or siting/operational changes that could significantly reduce eagle mortality. A copy of the complaint can be found here, and press on the filing of the lawsuit can be found here: http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/wind/group-sues-over-wind-project-threat-to-eagles.html

Monday, September 22, 2014

NPS Settles Suit and Curbs ORV Use in Big Cypress National Preserve

Today, we entered into a settlement agreement with the National Park Service (“NPS”) on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, and South Florida Wildlands Association, in which NPS agreed to close all secondary off-road vehicle (“ORV”) trails in the Turner River Unit and the Corn Dance Unit of Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve.  The coalition of conservation organizations brought suit in 2013 after NPS opened more than 100 miles of secondary trails without conducting any analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, the NPS Organic Act, the Endangered Species Act, or other federal environmental laws.  After the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that NPS could not avoid judicial review of its legal violations merely by starting a belated environmental review process while ORV use continued to destroy the Preserve’s sensitive natural resources, NPS agreed to settle the lawsuit without further court intervention by closing the unlawfully opened trails.  A press release on the settlement can be found here: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2014/big-cypress-09-22-2014.html  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Journal Article Details Big Tobacco’s Ongoing Document Disclosure Obligations

Tobacco Control, an international peer-reviewed journal, has recently published an article co-authored by Howard Crystal detailing Big Tobacco’s ongoing document disclosure obligations stemming from a 2006 ruling on the companies’ massive consumer fraud concerning the health effects and addictiveness of cigarettes. We represent a coalition of public health groups – including Tobacco-Free Kids and American Cancer Society – who have vigorously pursued strong remedies as Intervenors in that lawsuit, including ongoing and accessible disclosures of internal tobacco company documents. As detailed in the article – titled Transparency as a remedy against racketeering: preventing and restraining fraud by exposing Big Tobacco’s dirty secrets – under a 2011 Order the companies will publicly disclose documents produced in smoking and health litigation until 2021, and those materials will be readily accessible through enhanced website search tools funded by the companies, as well as at a document depository in Minnesota. 
The full article is available here: ttp://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/rapidpdf/tobaccocontrol-2014-051749?ijkey=rO08K0hpORzzz7B&keytype=ref

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

D.C. CIRCUIT BRIEF FILED IN SUPPORT OF HEARING RIGHTS IN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT RELICENSING

On behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, we filed a brief in the D.C. Circuit this week seeking to overturn the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) ruling that residents living near nuclear power plants have no right to participate in relicensing decisions, even where they possess significant new information. In the specific decision at issue, the NRC is considering whether to renew the license for the Limerick nuclear plant near Philadelphia.  NRDC and its members sought to present evidence showing how Limerick could cost-effectively reduce the severity of a catastrophic nuclear accident, but the NRC refused to let them participate.  We are asking the Court to reverse the NRC and rule that the agency must provide a hearing on these issues. Our brief is here.