Protecting and restoring California’s environment for over 30 years.
Founded in late December 1989, Environment Now is celebrating over 30 years 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.
Click here to view our visual timeline. For more details on these and other advances, click here.
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 has further 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.
More generally, Environment Now built and strengthened water quality enforcement capacity by supporting the growth of California’s and Baja California, Mexico’s Waterkeeper movement coastwide and inland, and in particular building a “picket line” of Waterkeeper organizations spanning the coast from Cabo San Lucas to Santa Barbara.
- In 1995, Environment Now partners won a federal judgment against Caltrans, requiring the agency to manage its stormwater discharges in compliance with the Clean Water Act. Tests of some Caltrans drains had found contamination so virulent it qualified as hazardous waste. After nearly a decade of legal maneuvering to avoid responsibility, Caltrans agreed in 2004 to design new highways and retrofit old ones with catch basins, sand traps, and filters to stop stormwater runoff from contaminating waterways.
- In 1998, Environment Now-established Santa Monica Baykeeper filed suit against Los Angeles over leaking sewer lines and tens of thousands of sewage spills, an action the City fought until a landmark settlement agreement in 2004. The $2 billion agreement called for replacement of almost 500 miles of sewer lines and a commitment to clean 2,800 miles of lines annually. Sewage spills that fouled Los Angeles County’s rivers and beaches have now decreased by 83% since 2004, and other Waterkeeper lawsuits fighting similar sewage pollution have succeeded around the state – a direct result of this groundbreaking lawsuit and follow-up efforts.
- After six decades of running dry for 60 miles, the San Joaquin River once again started flowing past Friant Dam to the Pacific Ocean in 2009, ensuring the re-introduction of salmon in this historic habitat. This court-ordered result arose from both lawsuits and congressional negotiations to restore the river and its salmon populations.
- In 2010, Environment Now partners worked in coalition to convince the state to formally phase out once-through cooling (OTC). The process sucks in massive amounts of coastal waters to cool antiquated power plants, killing untold marine life in the process. The decision came after a five-year campaign of briefing agencies on OTC’s impacts on coastal ecosystems, Clean Water Act compliance mandates, and alternative technologies.
- As a result of a case brought by Environment Now partners, the California Court of Appeal held in a landmark 2018 ruling that California’s “public trust doctrine” can be applied to protect groundwater that is interconnected with surface waters, in this case Northern California’s Scott River. As a result, the state is now responsible for protecting connected waterways from overdraft resulting from excessive groundwater pumping.
- In a watershed 2020 ruling, the Los Angeles Superior Court found that the State Water Board must consider mandating recycling of wastewater from four massive wastewater treatment plants in the Los Angeles area. This ruling sets the state on a new, more sustainable path toward more holistic water management and local water self-reliance.
- After years-long legal advocacy, Santa Barbara Coastkeeper secured implementation of minimum flow standards on the Ventura River for the first time in 2021.
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. Our 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 late 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 has funded a growing network of grassroots environmental groups to monitor California’s national forests and challenge harmful logging projects in court.
- Environment Now partners have achieved numerous successes with halting destructive logging projects and practices throughout California’s national forests. Successes include:
- a 2000 court victory that temporarily halted logging on all Sierra Nevada national forests;
- a 2006 court victory that overturned Forest Service plans for extensive commercial logging in the Giant Sequoia National Monument;
- a 2007 court victory that led to the lowest total level of logging on California’s national forests on record;
- a 2009 court victory against the first commercial logging proposal in Los Padres National Forest in over 40 years;
- numerous legal challenges against logging on Shasta-Trinity National Forest, which have caused cutting levels to drop by more than half since 2007;
- numerous challenges of post-fire logging over the past two decades that have protected natural regeneration and key wildlife habitat, with some projects reduced by more than 90%;
- a 2017 lawsuit that compelled Los Padres National Forest to withdraw plans to clearcut a 6-mile-long swath of native chaparral.
- Over the past two decades, Environment Now has supported independent scientists who have published dozens of studies in peer-reviewed journals debunking erroneous, fire-related claims used to justify logging. Our partners have also compiled research demonstrating the effectiveness of home retrofits to help communities safely coexist with fire-dependent ecosystems. Environment Now-funded economic research a revealed that the Forest Service’s timber sale program operates at a net loss to taxpayers of over a billion dollars per year.
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 from reliance on highly polluting diesel engines and vehicles, to supporting 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 of engines and vehicles in the public sector (transit and school buses, trash vehicles, street sweepers) and private industry (ports, supermarkets, construction, mining, shipping), dramatically reducing diesel and other air pollution throughout California and significantly improving local air quality. Efforts to reduce diesel exhaust across the state will prevent more than 10,000 premature deaths in 15 years and contribute to greenhouse gas reduction goals.
- “Dump Dirty Diesel” advocacy, begun in 1997, secured in 2000 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. After years of litigation winding up through the US Supreme Court, the rules were upheld in 2007, paving the way for wider reforms.
- In a successful suit against the Port of Los Angeles by Environment Now partners, the Port agreed in 2003 to reduce air pollution from the new China Shipping terminal by using cleaner fuels in yard vehicles and providing shore electrical power to allow massive container ships to shut down their highly polluting diesel engines when docked. Dockside electricity alone reduced the port’s pollution by over 200 tons of nitrogen oxides a year. This work was replicated around the state in other ports. The state later approved follow-up rules to curb pollution from ships and cargo-handling equipment statewide, slashing dangerous diesel pollution from California’s ports by 75%.
- In 2004, collaborative work by Environment Now partners resulted in a permanent state commitment of tens of millions annually for the “Carl Moyer program,” which created financial incentives to phase out high-polluting diesel engines. In its first five years alone, the program helped remove over 3,000 tons of nitrogen oxides pollution annually, and funding continues to this day.