Environment Now Celebrates 30 Years of Stewardship for California’s Environment

Founded in late December 1989, Environment Now is celebrating its 30th year of working to protect and enhance California’s waters, coast, forests, and air. While the work continues, we commend and thank our partners for their incredible successes over these last three decades. We outline some of these shared victories below, and we commit to continued vigilance and support for California’s environment in the future.

Water

Environment Now’s partners have held off the extinction of numerous California species and destruction of waterway habitats through litigation, science, and administrative advocacy. Partner work has contributed to a ten-year average reduction in water capture from the threatened Bay-Delta – critical to both California’s ecological and water supply health – of 1.24 million acre-feet (MAF), the equivalent of water use at roughly 3.72 million California households. Environment Now further built and strengthened water quality enforcement capacity by supporting the growth of California’s Waterkeeper movement coastwide and inland, as well as across Baja California, Mexico. Finally, Environment Now has worked to reduce water demand and use, contributing to a reduction in statewide water consumption of almost 22% (1.82 MAF) since 2013, and securing new commitments of over 0.5 MAF of reclaimed water by 2030.

  • In 1993, Environment Now launched the Santa Monica Baykeeper (now LA Waterkeeper), the first Waterkeeper in Southern California, to identify sources of coastal pollution and take action to stop it. Over the next 13 years, Environment Now helped establish a picket line of Waterkeepers along the entire Southern California coast, with San Diego Coastkeeper, Orange County Coastkeeper, and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper also launching in the 1990s.
  • Hand-in-hand with establishing the Waterkeepers, Environment Now recognized that stormwater runoff is one of the most significant sources of pollution along the Southern California coast. We partnered with NRDC to take on major stormwater pollution cases under the Clean Water Act and began to win, leveraging these lessons toward helping each new Waterkeeper to create and fund their own signature Clean Water Act enforcement campaigns.
  • In 1995, partners NRDC and Santa Monica Baykeeper won a federal judgment against Caltrans to manage stormwater discharges from its transportation corridors and activities in compliance with the Clean Water Act. Tests of some Caltrans drains found contamination so virulent it qualified as hazardous waste. However, Caltrans engaged in nearly a decade of legal maneuvering to avoid responsibility for filtering runoff from its roads.
  • Santa Monica Baykeeper filed suit against Los Angeles in 1998 over leaking sewer lines and ongoing sewage spills, an action the City fought until Baykeeper achieved a landmark settlement agreement six years later.
  • In 2000, Environment Now helped launch Ventura Coastkeeper and California Coastkeeper Alliance (CCKA), with CCKA coordinating the Southern California Waterkeepers’ pollution and habitat restoration work and providing statewide advocacy support.
  • In light of ongoing Waterkeeper success with stormwater and other pollution cases, Environment Now established its signature Revolving Litigation Fund, which supports fees and costs associated with environmental lawsuits. Fees and costs recovered through wins are returned to the Fund to sustain new cases. As of 2020, 48 cases have been filed and completed through the Revolving Litigation Fund, with a 79% recovery rate on $1.7 million total expended over 37 wins and 11 losses. On top of the Fund, Environment Now over the years has funded numerous additional, environmentally critical lawsuits with program grants.
  • In 2000, Environment Now partners NRDC and the Frank G. Wells UCLA Environmental Law Clinic began applying a powerful but under-utilized Clean Water Act tool of setting maximum pollutant limits for contaminated waterways and mandating pollutant cutbacks to meet those limits. These “total maximum daily loads” (TMDLs) are based on the health of the waterway and its uses. A related Environment Now partner success was a court victory ruling that industry costs could not be considered when setting TMDLs.
  • In 2001, the LA Regional Water Board (LARWB) adopted a 14-year program to eliminate trash discharges into the LA River, as a result of additional, successful partner litigation. Twenty-one L.A. cities sued up to the California Supreme Court to stop the program, which withstood these challenges.
  • In part due to San Diego Baykeeper’s and Surfrider Foundation’s sewage spill lawsuit against the City of San Diego, the City approved $240 million in 2001 for inspection, maintenance, and replacement of aging sewer lines. As a result, sewage spills declined by 58% from 2000 to 2003, and beach closures decreased by nearly 50%. The groups settled the suit in 2005, requiring the City to invest more than $1 billion in maintaining its sewage system over the next ten years.
  • Habitat protection began offshore, with CCKA establishing its Regional Kelp Restoration Facility in San Pedro Harbor in 2002. The Facility formed the basis for a coordinated kelp “reforestation” program in Southern California, in which all of the Southern California Waterkeepers took part. As a result of this coordinated effort, tens of thousands of square feet of new kelp forests, home to numerous native species including California’s state marine fish, the garibaldi, were created.
  • Santa Monica Baykeeper had sued Los Angeles over leaking sewers and sewage spills in 1998, alleging at least 20,000 spills, all violations of the federal Clean Water Act. In 2002 the City finally admitted responsibility for over 3,000 spills. Baykeeper settled the case in 2004, when the City agreed to upgrade its dilapidated sewer system. The $2 billion final settlement called for replacement of at least 488 miles of sewer lines in the 6,000-plus mile system, and a commitment by the City to clean 2,800 miles of sewer lines every year. By 2009, the City reported it was ahead of its implementation schedule citing a 77% reduction in sewage spills since the case was initiated. To date, sewage spills that fouled Los Angeles County’s rivers and beaches have decreased by 83% since 2004 –a direct result of LA Waterkeeper’s successful lawsuit and follow-up efforts.
  • Years of advocacy by partners Wishtoyo Foundation, Heal the Bay, and others brought to a halt the 2800-acre Ahmanson Ranch development proposal, which would have fouled the Malibu Creek watershed and downstream coast, as well as destroyed critical Chumash cultural resources as well as wildlife habitats and significantly impacted air quality. The site was purchased by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and turned over to the public.
  • Another long-running pollution battle ended in 2004 when a lawsuit brought in 2001 by the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and its allies shut down the Halaco smelting facility in Oxnard. Halaco had dumped over a million gallons of toxic waste into the Ormond Wetland, one of the few remaining coastal wetlands in California, resulting in a 20-acre slagheap leaching copper, lead, ammonia, and even radioactive thorium.
  • In 2004, partner Environmental Working Group released a 16-month investigation into Central Valley Project (CVP) water system subsidies, finding that the average price for irrigation water was less than 2% of what Los Angeles residents paid, 10% of the cost of replacement water supplies, and 12.5% of the public’s price to buy its own water back from farmers to restore California’s waterways. The 25 largest farms received public water subsidies of $1 million each, encouraging massive over-consumption of water. This report formed the basis for later water reforms.
  • A 2004 settlement agreement filed in federal court resolved the most significant issues in the stormwater lawsuit brought in 1994 by partners NRDC and Santa Monica Baykeeper against Caltrans. Among other concessions, Caltrans agreed to design new highways and retrofit old ones with catch basins, sand traps, and filters to stop stormwater runoff from contaminating waterways.
  • Partner NRDC and local groups pushed the Central Coast Regional Water Board to reject a weak stormwater management plan submitted by Monterey region municipalities in 2005. This was the first plan submitted in response to a new state stormwater permit policy applicable to smaller cities, and so the action raised the bar for future plans.
  • Also in 2005, Orange County Coastkeeper settled its sewage lawsuit with the City of Garden Grove, requiring the City to spend $48 million over the next fifteen years to upgrade its sewage system.
  • Environment Now supported development of new Waterkeeper programs in Baja California, Mexico in 2005, focusing in part on water quality monitoring, habitat protection, and plastic pollution control. Since then, the Baja Waterkeepers have increasingly built out their water quality monitoring activities through the Environment Now-supported Swim Guide app, which provides information on water quality for 8,000 beaches internationally.
  • Partner CCKA organized allies in 2006 to successfully push the LA Regional Water Board to begin regulating agricultural runoff pollution, following similar efforts in the Central Coast and Central Valley. California was the first state in the nation to regulate agricultural wastewater.
  • After years of litigation, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled in 2006 on partner California Water Impact Network’s successful lawsuit, finding that the State Water Resources Control Board violated water flow mandates. As a result, affected spring and summer Delta water flows were expected to increase by 50%.
  • In 2007, Magdalena Baykeeper challenged an enormous tourist development proposal in Magdalena Bay, which is a refuge and breeding ground for gray whales, sea turtles, and hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, with the result that the potentially devastating project was canceled.
  • In 2008, the La Paz Coastkeeper in Baja California and local groups persuaded regional authorities to designate over 2,100 hectares of land and sea around famed Balandra Beach as a natural protected area.
  • Partners CCKA and Heal the Bay joined water agencies to present California’s first Recycled Water Policy to the State Water Board in late 2008, after nearly two years of negotiations. The Water Board then adopted it in early 2009. The Policy proposes to bring three million acre-feet of recycled water and another million acre-feet of reused stormwater online in the next 20 years, and encourages 20 percent water use reductions through conservation. The Water Board also adopted a permit allowing landscape irrigation to use recycled municipal water. These numbers would relieve current water demand by nearly 40% in the municipal and industrial sectors alone.
  • As a result of a successful CCKA lawsuit against the Department of Fish and Game, the state approved $1 million for flow assessments in the Shasta, Big Sur, and Santa Maria rivers in 2008, which would form the basis for streamflow recommendations to protect habitats and fish.
  • Partner Klamath Riverkeeper successfully compelled US EPA to regulate toxic algae as a pollutant under the Clean Water Act. This victory forced PacifiCorp to address toxic algae associated with their dams during relicensing, which requires compliance with Clean Water Act standards.
  • Starting in 2006, Environment Now partners NRDC, CCKA and Heal the Bay together pressed for policies to more efficiently use dwindling water resources through “Low Impact Development” (LID) strategies, such as grassy swales along roads that slow stormwater flows. In 2008, they convinced the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) to find that “new developments and redevelopments should be designed consistent with low impact development principles.” Armed with this support, they went region by region, persuading Los Angeles and San Diego Counties to adopt LID ordinances, and applying LID in six different Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) permits, which regulate industrial, construction, and municipal discharges.
  • In 2009, Environment Now’s partners California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and San Francisco Baykeeper successfully settled three Clean Water Act sewage discharge cases, securing municipal implementation commitments that would significantly improve water quality in those areas.
  • In part due to NRDC litigation, the National Marine Fisheries Service released an improved salmon Biological Opinion in 2009, addressing the impacts of federally allowed water withdrawals in the Central Valley on steelhead, sturgeon, and even orcas. This and the earlier Delta Smelt Biological Opinion together required the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to restore critical fish access to waters above four dams.
  • Heal the Bay and NRDC successfully negotiated to establish a groundbreaking, enforceable Ventura County Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit, adopted by the LA Regional Water Board in 2009, the first in California to include aggressive numeric LID requirements. The permit also set a precedent by including enforceable waste load allocations needed to help Ventura County meet federal standards for total maximum daily loads. This marked the first time that one permit had compiled all TMDLs for an entire county.
  • In 2006, a broad coalition of fishing, conservation, and environmental justice groups led by CCKA convinced the California State Lands Commission (SLC) and Ocean Protection Council to adopt strong resolutions to phase out once-through cooling, which sucks in massive amounts of coastal waters to cool antiquated power plants and kills untold marine life in the process. In 2007, CCKA, Santa Monica Baykeeper, and Surfrider Foundation successfully sued the U.S. EPA over its flawed once-through cooling rules and, with Heal the Bay, focused on changing the longstanding leases and permits of these destructive – and often energy inefficient – coastal power plants to phase out this outdated practice.
  • The California Fish and Game Commission approved regulations in 2007 establishing a network of marine protected areas along California’s Central Coast, the first in what would be coastwide network of 124 protected areas spanning 16% of state waters. Partners CCKA and others were active in this effort.
  • Advocacy by Environment Now partners including Heal the Bay and CCKA resulted in the 2008 adoption by the California Ocean Protection Council of a groundbreaking strategy and resolution to reduce and prevent marine debris pollution. This led to adoption of enforceable “trash amendments” to stormwater permits for all large- and medium-sized cities in the state, and adoption of trash limits in the State Water Board’s Ocean Plan and Inland Surface Waters, Enclosed Bays, and Estuaries Plan.
  • After six decades of running dry for 60 miles, the San Joaquin River once again started flowing past Friant Dam to the Pacific Ocean, ensuring the re-introduction of salmon in this historic habitat. This 2009 court-ordered result arose in large part from partner NRDC’s lawsuit and congressional negotiations to restore the river and its salmon populations. Adult spring run Chinook salmon have since returned to the upper San Joaquin River for the first time in 65 years as a result of the San Joaquin River Restoration program, an outgrowth of 17 years of litigation and another 10 years of dogged advocacy by our partners to implement the settlement.
  • Partners CCKA and Surfrider Foundation, with others, finally convinced the State Water Resources Control Board to formally mandate the phase out of once-through cooling (OTC) in 19 coastal power plants in 2010. The decision came after a five-year campaign of briefing the Board on OTC’s impacts on coastal ecosystems, Clean Water Act compliance, and alternative technologies.
  • The State Water Resources Control Board released its first, interactive map of severely polluted – or “impaired” – water bodies in 2010, modeled after CCKA’s impaired waters mapping initiative begun in 2007. The maps allow users to learn about contamination in local watersheds, identify pollutants, and consider cleanup priorities.
  • After five years of litigation, partner Humboldt Baykeeper settled its lawsuit against Union Pacific in 2010, over toxic contamination at Union Pacific’s Balloon Track property impacting local surface water quality and ecosystems. The settlement required Union Pacific to remove contaminated sediment and prevent further discharges of pollutants to Clark Slough and Humboldt Bay.
  • Environment Now staff and allies were awarded a $2.5 million state Green Innovations Challenge grant in 2010 to develop 220 jobs in water efficiency in and around Los Angeles, with work beginning in 2011. The grant was leveraged two times and trained 250 youth in water efficiency. The effort led to the start of a cottage industry in water efficiency that continues today.
  • Klamath Riverkeeper settled its suit in 2012 against the Montague Irrigation District for Endangered Species Act violations related to operations at Dwinnell Dam, securing increased flows for aquatic species and a priority right for environmental water releases from the dam.
  • In 2012, partners Santa Monica Baykeeper and NRDC achieved a $6.6 million dollar settlement with the City of Malibu over its polluted runoff discharges, requiring the City to clean up some of Malibu’s most frequented spots, including the world famous Surfrider Beach.
  • Environment Now partners Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and Environmental Defense Center entered into a consent decree with the Ojai Quarry in 2014, significantly improving operations to the benefit of local waterways and fish.
  • Subsequent to passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, Environment Now partnered with Clean Water Fund to support adoption of strong implementation rules, and to ensure community engagement towards establishment of effective Groundwater Sustainability Agencies. Environment Now also supported the development of research predicting whether proposed Groundwater Sustainability Plans will allow wells to run dry, which has been used in evaluating submitted Plans.
  • After advocacy by partner CCKA and others, the State Water Board adopted an updated General Industrial Stormwater Permit in 2015 that for the first time included specific numeric pollutant limits.
  • The California Supreme Court upheld in 2016 a statewide moratorium on recreational suction dredge mining for gold and validated mining regulations that protect water supplies, fisheries, wildlife, and cultural resources. This case was brought by partner Center for Biological Diversity.
  • In a 2017 ruling, a federal court found for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) and the Yurok and Karuk tribes in a case over threatened Klamath River Coho salmon impacted by four upstream dams. The court ordered federal agencies to release sufficient water to flush out fish parasites in the Klamath riverbed, and to reserve water to provide flows later if a disease outbreak occurred.
  • In a landmark 2018 decision initiated by partner PCFFA and others, a court held that the public trust doctrine applies to groundwater interconnected with surface waters, in this case the Scott River. As a result, the state became responsible for protecting connected waterways from overdraft resulting from excessive groundwater pumping.
  • In a 2018 case brought by partners Ventura Coastkeeper and CalTrout against United Water Conservation District for jeopardizing endangered steelhead in the Santa Clara River, the court ordered UWCD to design and implement steelhead passage for the dam and release sufficient water downstream for steelhead migration. This decision was affirmed on appeal in 2020.
  • In September 2018, Environment Now co-sponsored a Water Pavilion with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research at the Global Climate Action Summit. The two-day Pavilion was attended by hundreds of water and climate experts from around the world, who highlighted intersections between water and climate change and shared resilient water solutions.
  • Los Angeles residents passed in 2018 Measure W, a parcel tax on impermeable surfaces, which will raise approximately $300 million a year for projects to capture and clean storm runoff. LA Waterkeeper actively participates as an appointed member of two committees overseeing spending from this fund.
  • In 2018, Environment Now’s Baja Waterkeeper partners secured a ban on single-use plastic, straws, and some polystyrene products in the State of Baja California Sur, as well as a plastic bag ban in Tijuana, Mexico.
  • In 2019, advocacy by Environment Now partners contributed to a statewide moratorium on fracking-related activity, including in affected LA County groundwater basins.
  • Advocacy by partner The Bay Institute resulted in the adoption and implementation by the Central Valley Regional Water Board of a zero-selenium discharge plan in 2019.
  • Environment Now’s partners supported the successful launch of LA Mayor Garcetti’s Green New Deal in 2019, which commits to recycling 100% of LA’s wastewater by 2035, sourcing 70% of LA’s water locally, and nearly tripling the maximum amount of stormwater captured.
  • In 2020, partner LA Waterkeeper won a watershed case that will lead to vastly improved management of treated wastewater. The court required the State Water Board to analyze the potential for mandating recycling of treated wastewater from four massive wastewater treatment plants in the Los Angeles area, toward a more holistic water management strategy and local water self-reliance, consistent with the Mayor’s Green New Deal.

Forests

For decades, California’s national forests were being rapidly cut down by commercial timber companies denuding public forests at taxpayer expense. In response, Environment Now has established and supported a network of national forest defenders throughout the state, working to protect these 20 million acres of federal land. These partners have successfully challenged harmful logging and chaparral-clearcutting projects on every national forest in California. As a result, logging levels on California’s national forests have decreased by 87% since Environment Now was founded in 1989, from almost 2 billion board feet of trees cut to 256 million board feet. The work continues, with a goal of fully protecting California’s national forests from commercial logging.

 

  • Environment Now’s involvement with forest protection grew out of efforts to protect the old-growth redwoods in northwestern California after the Maxxam corporation took over a local timber company and dramatically increased logging. Environment Now funded innovative legal strategies to protect these redwoods. In 1999, many giant redwoods were acquired as federal public land and became the Headwaters Forest Reserve. 
  • In 1992, Environment Now co-sponsored the Sierra Now! conference, which brought together hundreds of experts to explore solutions to environmental challenges in the forests of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. 
  • As part of its growing interest in protecting Sierra Nevada national forests, Environment Now was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against six logging projects on three national forests in 1994.
  • Starting in the 2000s, Environment Now began funding a growing network of grassroots environmental groups to monitor California’s national forests and challenge harmful logging projects in court, similar to the successful approach employed by Environment Now’s Water Program through the Waterkeepers.
  • In 2000, partner John Muir Project filed a lawsuit that halted all logging on national forests throughout the Sierra Nevada until the Forest Service implemented a new management plan that significantly increased forest protection in the region.
  • After the creation of the Giant Sequoia National Monument in 2000, partners Sequoia ForestKeeper, John Muir Project, and their allies challenged the Forest Service’s attempts to log in the national monument. This culminated in a courtroom victory in 2006 to halt logging projects and compel the Forest Service to create a new management plan that would better protect the monument from logging.
  • On California’s North Coast, runoff from logging transports sediment, herbicides, and petroleum products into streams, where the pollution kills young and adult salmon and their eggs. Partner Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) sued the Maxxam corporation under the federal Clean Water Act over such discharges in 2001. The court sided with EPIC and struck down several key logging permits. 
  • During the 2000s, Environment Now began funding scientific research on key issues regarding forest fire ecology. For example, biologist Monica Bond published the first study of California spotted owls’ relationship to forests that had experienced intense fires. This research found that intensely burned patches of forest—areas typically targeted for post-fire logging by the Forest Service—provide important foraging habitat for spotted owls. 
  • From the 2000s to the present, many of Environment Now’s partners have challenged post-fire logging projects in California’s national forests in order to protect the important wildlife habitat created by fires and to preserve natural forest regeneration. These actions have led the Forest Service to reduce some post-fire logging projects by 90% or more.
  • In 2007, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest had by far the highest level of logging of any national forest in California. After Environment Now began funding partner Conservation Congress in 2008, logging levels plummeted and have generally remained at less than half of 2007 levels.
  • In 2008, partner Los Padres ForestWatch successfully sued to stop what would have been the first commercial logging project on Los Padres National Forest in over 40 years. Los Padres ForestWatch has subsequently stopped multiple attempts by the Forest Service to do commercial logging on this national forest. 
  • After numerous challenges to Maxxam’s harmful logging of redwood forests in northwestern California by partner EPIC and its allies, the corporation sold off its California forestlands in 2008 to the Mendocino Redwood Company, which pledged to do less intensive cutting. 
  • California’s largest private landowner, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), has engaged in extensive clearcutting on its forestlands. However, in 2009, multiple legal challenges by partner Center for Biological Diversity to the climate impacts from SPI’s clearcutting prevented the company from doing any new large-scale clearcutting for more than a year. 
  • In 2009, the cumulative impact of our partners’ legal victories against Forest Service logging projects led to California’s national forests having their lowest-ever total annual cut on record—152 million board feet.
  • In 2010, partner Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology (FUSEE) published a report titled “Getting Burned: A Taxpayer’s Guide to Wildfire Suppression Costs,” highlighting the high costs of the Forest Service’s fire policies. Subsequent FUSEE reports have also exposed the ecological harm, damage to Native American sacred sites, and dangers to wildland firefighters from misguided Forest Service fire policies.
  • In 2013, partner Conservation Congress won lawsuits against two logging projects on Mendocino National Forest. In subsequent years, the amount of logging on Mendocino National Forest plummeted.
  • In 2013, partners Dr. Dominick DellaSala and Dr. Chad Hanson organized a letter to Congress from more than 250 scientists on the importance of protecting post-fire forests from logging.
  • In 2013, partner California Chaparral Institute succeeded in getting the Forest Service to withdraw a 6,000-acre chaparral-clearcutting project on San Bernardino National Forest and to reduce a project on the Cleveland National Forest by 90%.
  • 2015 saw the publication of The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix, edited by partners Dr. Dominick DellaSala and Dr. Chad Hanson. This book– co-authored by 27 scientists and fire experts– provides a helpful compilation of scientific research debunking false claims about wildfire used by the Forest Service to promote logging. 
  • In 2015, the Pacific fisher– a large member of the weasel family– became the first major forest-dwelling species in the Sierra Nevada to receive protection under the California Endangered Species Act, due to a scientific petition and litigation by partner Center for Biological Diversity. The Center and its co-plaintiffs also secured federal Endangered Species Act protection for the Pacific fisher in 2020.
  • Partner Center for Biological Diversity has been at the forefront of challenging biomass energy facilities in California. These facilities incinerate trees and other forest material to generate electricity, a process that harms forests and emits large amounts of carbon pollution. In 2016, the Buena Vista biomass facility in the Sierra Nevada shut down, due in part to the Center for Biological Diversity’s work.
  • In 2017, a lawsuit by partners Los Padres ForestWatch and California Chaparral Institute compelled the Forest Service to cancel its plans to clearcut a 6-mile swath of native vegetation.
  • In 2019, partner Center for Sustainable Economy published a report showing that the Forest Service’s logging program operates at a net loss to taxpayers of over a billion dollars per year.
  • In 2019, multiple partners contributed to a report titled “A New Direction for California Wildfire Policy—Working from the Home Outward” that highlights that the most effective steps to help communities safely coexist with forests and other fire-dependent ecosystems involve focusing resources on fire-safety retrofits to houses and other actions within the immediate vicinity of houses, rather than subsidizing logging in wildlands.

Air

Starting with the 1990s Dump Dirty Diesel campaign, Environment Now and its partners swept across Southern California and then the state with projects that have moved California dramatically from reliance on highly polluting diesel engines and vehicles, to far cleaner alternative fuels, including natural gas and more recently hydrogen and electric power. Advocacy over this 20-year program has resulted in replacement of tens of thousands engines and vehicles in the public sector (transit and school buses, trash vehicles, street sweepers) and in private industry (ports, supermarkets, construction, mining, shipping), dramatically reducing diesel and other air pollution throughout California and significantly improving local air quality.

  • In 1997, Environment Now became the principal funder of the Dump Dirty Diesel campaign, addressing toxic diesel exhaust in partnership with NRDC and the Coalition for Clean Air.
  • In 2000, Dump Dirty Diesel campaign advocacy secured from the South Coast Air Quality Management District six new fleet rules, requiring most new public fleet vehicles to be powered by alternative fuels such as natural gas, rather than diesel. This decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals in 2002, in an effort led by partner NRDC. These rules mandate operators of public fleets such as transit buses, trash vehicles, school buses, street sweepers and airport shuttle fleets to purchase non-diesel, alternative fuel vehicles when replacing old vehicles or adding to their fleets. In just a few years after the rules were adopted, more than 5,000 clean fuel public vehicles had replaced highly polluting diesel vehicles.
  • In a related effort, partner NRDC released a study on air quality on public school buses, which found that a child riding inside a diesel school bus may be exposed to up to 46 times the cancer risk considered significant by US EPA.
  • NRDC, the Coalition for Clean Air, and the California Attorney General completed the Environment Now-initiated Grocery Store Distribution Center Litigation project, with successful Proposition 65 litigation against the last of the four major Southern California supermarket chains in late 2000. As a result of this victory, the chains agreed to purchase almost 200 cleaner, alternative fuel heavy-duty trucks and yard utility vehicles and build natural gas refueling stations.
  • A suit against the Port of Los Angeles successfully in 2003, resulting in measures to mitigate diesel pollution from trucks and yard vehicles serving the Port and from docked ships, significantly clearing the air over the Port and the surrounding communities. Among other steps, the Port agreed to reduce the pollution from the new China Shipping terminal by using cleaner fuels in yard tractors, providing shore electrical power that will allow the massive container ships to shut down their highly polluting diesel engines when docked, and spending $50 million to otherwise reduce diesel pollution from Port sources and offset impacts on the community. The use of shore power alone is expected to reduce the port’s pollution load by over 200 tons of nitrogen oxides a year.
  • Environment Now launched Energy Independence Now in 2003 to help transition California’s transportation economy to a hydrogen fuel base.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court found in 2004 that the Clean Air Act (CAA) may preempt the six Southern California air district rules aimed at replacing diesel with natural gas vehicles in public fleets, but left the door open for further challenges. California’s Air Resources Board researched applying to US EPA for a CAA waiver that would allow its rules to effectively continue.
  • In 2004, Environment Now partner Border Power Plant Working Group sued the US Department of Energy over US transmission lines from two highly polluting power plants in Mexicali, Baja California. The court ordered the Department to prepare new environmental assessments.
  • In 2004, the collaborative effort of creative government leadership, Environment Now partner Coalition for Clean Air, and others resulted in a permanent commitment of $125 – $140 million annually for the Carl Moyer program to create financial incentives that phase out high-polluting diesel engines. Begun in 1999, the program had already helped remove over 3,000 tons of nitrogen oxide from the air each year by 2004, and continues to this day to provide over $60 million in grant funding each year to clean up older polluting engines throughout California.
  • Partners NRDC and Coalition for Clean Air ensured successful implementation in 2005 of the China Shipping settlement at the Port of Los Angeles, with 70% of the company’s ships now “plugging in” to electric power rather than running diesel engines dockside, and all yard tractors running on alternative fuels.
  • Following advocacy by partners NRDC and the Coalition for Clean Air, the California Air Resources Board unanimously approved in 2005 two new rules to curb pollution from ships and cargo-handling equipment by requiring them to burn safer, cleaner fuels. This effectively slashed three-fourths of the dangerous diesel pollution released at California’s ports.
  • As a result of NRDC and Coalition for Clean Air efforts, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach adopted a 2006 Clean Air Action Plan that aggressively attempted to cut diesel pollution from cargo ships, trains, and trucks by over 50%.
  • Partner California Environmental Rights Alliance’s advocacy led to the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s 2006 approval of a $5 million plan to reduce health risks from Quemetco, a secondary lead smelter with the highest cancer burden of any facility in the South Coast air basin. The new controls would result in a 92% arsenic and lead emissions, and a 50% reduction in nickel emissions.
  • Beginning in 2003, partners Deltakeeper and NRDC and others challenged the Port of Stockton’s plans to triple its size. The court ordered in 2006 that further environmental review be conducted. The cases were settled with the Port agreeing to create a $5 million air quality mitigations fund, reduce dockage fees for using cleaner fuels, mandate idling restrictions, and require electrical hook-ups. This settlement provided yet another model for reducing port pollution reductions to guide future lawsuits.
  • Subsequent to the US Supreme Court’s decision on rules requiring fleet operators in the South Coast Air Basin to purchase alternative-fueled vehicles when replacing or buying new, litigation led by partner NRDC resulted in a victory at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in 2007 that the fleet rules were valid.
  • In July 2007, in part as a result of Environment Now partner advocacy, the California Air Resources Board, led by its new Chair and former Environment Now Executive Director Mary Nichols, adopted tough new rules forcing the retrofit or replacement of certain off-road diesel engines over the next 13 years. The rules impacted construction, mining, and airport ground support, among other industries, accounting for 20% of all diesel emissions in California.