Nevermind Earthjustice, Families Need Economic Justice

(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

According to an article in the LA Times, a coalition of environmental organizations, led by a law firm called Earthjustice, has accused Southern California air regulators of allowing heavy emitters of smog-forming pollution to avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in federally mandated financial penalties. 


From a pro-energy abundance and pro-prosperity perspective, the actions of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) in allowing so-called heavy emitters of smog-forming pollution to avoid financial penalties should be seen as a reasonable and positive step. 

But before I explain why, allow me to add some context by telling you who it is that is taking the AQMD to task. 

The organization Earthjustice, while portraying itself as a watchdog for the environment, is in fact a wealthy group of environmentalists who use litigation to make the organization money, and lots of it. This is quite contrary to how the organization describes itself:

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit public interest environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.

We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.

Make no mistake: Earthjustice is very much a for-profit organization that enriches itself by suing local, state, and federal government agencies to implement its radical green agenda. And it’s a pretty impressive grifting operation. 

According to their IRS 990 forms for FY2019/20, 20/21, and 21/22 (FY22/23 isn’t available for review), this “nonprofit public interest law organization” has taken in nearly $650 million in income, while paying its top 12 employees an estimated combined annual salary of $5 million. The organization, as of 2022, employed just shy of 600 people. 


In 2021/22, according to its IRS 990 form, Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice’s president, was paid $536,931 in 2022, and Margaret Marsh-Heine, the Senior VP of Development, received $491,775. The group’s other Senior VP of Operations was paid $428,400. 

So here you have three uber-green activists waging war on the energy industry in Los Angeles while earning nearly $1.5 million in salaries between them. 

By comparison, in 2020, according to Data USA, the median income in Los Angeles was $65,290. According to ZipRecruiter, as of September 2023, the average hourly wage in Los Angeles is $15.86. 

Why does that matter? It matters because the people these green organizations are going after are the energy providers these lower-income families rely on to cool their homes in the summer, heat their homes in the winter, and to fuel their vehicles year-round. 

It was just reported today that gas prices in Los Angeles have reached $6 a gallon. I live in Santa Barbara and I’ve been paying just shy of $6 for several weeks.

The AQMD's decision to use a controversial accounting rule to forgive pollution fees in exchange for funding emission reduction initiatives demonstrates a commitment to finding practical solutions to environmental challenges while also supporting economic growth and prosperity. 

This matters little to the green lawyers at law firms like Earthjustice because they’re already prosperous; indeed they’re quite wealthy and getting wealthier as more and more wealthy donors, including limousine Liberal celebrities, support their "pro-environment" efforts. 


And while arguing that the AQMD's actions have robbed communities of the opportunity to push polluting facilities to clean up their emissions, they ignore the broader context. 

For example, the South Coast air basin, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and part of San Bernardino counties, experiences some of the worst air quality in the nation. But it isn’t due to non-mobile sources — the region's pollution problem is primarily caused by mobile sources such as cars, trucks, and trains. 

By targeting the largest source of pollution, the AQMD is taking a proactive approach to addressing the root cause of the problem. This approach is just as stringent as collecting pollution fees and, as the article points out, has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Are we to believe the EPA is anti-environment?

Moreover, it is important to note that even if emissions from all large facilities within the larger LA region were completely eliminated, the air basin in Southern California would still not meet federal benchmarks due to emissions from federally regulated sources such as cargo ships, freight trains, airplanes, and heavy-duty trucks. 

Furthermore, the AQMD's decision to use funding from public sources, such as motor vehicle registration fees and bond sales, to support emission reduction initiatives demonstrates a commitment to leveraging resources effectively. This approach ensures that the burden of funding these initiatives is not solely placed on the shoulders of private industry, but is shared by the broader community. 


However, it is worth pointing out that Earthjustice receives tens of millions from public sources too. Somehow this is justice for Mother Earth. But what about some economic justice for struggling working mothers who pay the price the these nonprofit groups’ environmental law-fare?   

It is also worth noting that the AQMD has previously argued that facilities within its jurisdiction only account for a fraction of smog-forming emissions. 

Imposing punitive fees on these facilities, particularly essential public services and medical facilities that cannot reduce their throughput to reduce emissions, would be counterproductive and could have unintended consequences for the community. 

In addition to addressing the region's pollution challenges, the AQMD has taken legal action against the EPA, claiming that the federal agency has not done enough to curb pollution from ports, railyards, and airports. This should be seen as a commitment by the District to hold all responsible parties accountable and ensure that everyone is doing their part to improve local air quality. 

Overall, the actions of the AQMD should be seen as a balanced approach that prioritizes both environmental protection and the protection of blue-collar jobs. 

By targeting the largest source of pollution and leveraging public funding for emission reduction initiatives, the AQMD is taking practical steps toward improving air quality in the region. It is important to recognize the complexities of the issue and the need for strategies to achieve sensible solutions that benefit both the environment and also the economy.



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