Environmental Law Foundation

Our Mission

We believe in protecting the environment, communities, and consumers against harmful toxics. Our work consistently improves environmental quality for those most at risk by providing access to information, strategies and enforcement of environmental, toxics, and community right-to-know laws.

Recent Events

Karuk Tribe and ELF Petition for Scott River Flows

On July 1, 2021, ELF filed a petition on behalf of itself and the Karuk Tribe requesting that the California State Water Resources Control Board fulfill its duty under the public trust doctrine and exercise its authority under the Governor’s drought proclamation to set an emergency minimum flow standard for the Scott River. Low flows as a result of overextraction of water are driving salmon populations to extinction. Swift action by the State Board can protect this culturally and ecologically precious resource for the future.

On August 17, 2021 the State Board adopted Emergency Regulations for the Scott and Shasta Rivers. The Emergency Regulations went into effect on August 30, 2021. Curtailment orders have now been sent to diverters and pumpers in the Scott River basin.

Sustainable Groundwater Management in Siskiyou County

On May 10, 2021, ELF submitted comments on Siskiyou County’s proposed Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Scott Valley. ELF’s comments seek to ensure that the final plan, when adopted, addresses concerns over the plan’s analysis of undesirable results in stream flows, failure to set measurable objectives and minimum flow thresholds, and lack of consideration of impacts to surface water quality. The comments also urge Siskiyou County to take action to protect public trust resources in the Scott Valley.

Consumers’ Right to Know About Glyphosate

On February 19, 2021, ELF and the Natural Resources Defense Council, United Steelworkers, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, As You Sow, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Center for Food Safety, Clean Water Action, Pesticide Action Network North America, and San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a case brought by Monsanto and a consortium of agribusiness groups against Proposition 65, California’s safe drinking water and toxic chemical right-to-know law.

The brief urges the court to reject a rule that would allow Monsanto to use the First Amendment to avoid giving warnings about glyphosate, a probable carcinogen, by highlighting the robust scientific process agencies use to list dangerous chemicals.

Sustainable Groundwater Management in the San Joaquin Valley

ELF has joined with the Law Offices of Thomas N. Lippe to represent the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance in its lawsuit challenging the coordinated groundwater sustainability plan for the Delta-Mendota Subbasin in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Decades of groundwater mismanagement in the basin have led to overdraft, degraded water quality, and impacts to the San Joaquin River.

CSPA alleges that components of the coordinated plan, adopted by multiple groundwater sustainability agencies in the region, fail to achieve sustainable groundwater management for the basin as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. CSPA’s lawsuit, filed in March 2020, seeks to declare the plan and its adoption by the agencies invalid.

Groundwater in California

ELF joined the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and the Institute for Fisheries Resources in filing a lawsuit against the State Water Resources Control Board and Siskiyou County, alleging violations of the public trust doctrine, which protects the state’s navigable waters from harm.

In August 2018, the California Court of Appeal ruled that even after the enactment of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, these governmental entities are under an obligation to consider the possible negative effects of groundwater pumping on nearby navigable rivers.

Siskiyou County sought review at the California Supreme Court, but review was denied on November 28, 2018. The Court of Appeal’s decision is now definitive law in California.

Transparency in Groundwater Pollution Data

On March 28, 2018, ELF filed suit against the California State Water Resources Control Board, asking the court to invalidate a general permit for agriculture in the Central Valley that permits growers to keep key water quality data secret. Nitrate emitted from irrigated agriculture contaminates drinking water wells throughout the state.