NY/NJ Baykeeper has used the power of legal actions and campaigns to protect, preserve and restore waterways, wetlands and habitats throughout the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary. Baykeeper’s legal advocacy will continue to concentrate on “heritage pollutants” such as contaminated sediments and will work to make sure facilities and municipalities are in compliance with the newest phase of stormwater regulations. NY/NJ Baykeeper will continue to investigate facilities that cause “imminent and substantial danger to human health and the environment” and promote our belief that polluters– not the public– pay to restore the resource to its prior condition before it was polluted.
- Represented by Rutgers, Pace, and Columbia environmental law clinics, Baykeeper has used the citizen suit provisions in the federal Clean Water Act, RCRA, and state statutes to bring legal action against egregious public and private polluters. These successful lawsuits have forced sewage treatment plants to upgrade and to come into compliance with their permits, and produced millions of dollars for habitat restoration and park construction through environmental benefit (supplementary environmental) projects.
- Through our “Clean Harbor Campaign,” Baykeeper brought legal action against combined sewer overflow (CSO) operators in violation of their permits. When we began this campaign, none were in compliance. At the end, all NJ CSO dischargers were in compliance with their general permit.
- NY/NJ Baykeeper’s 30-member “polluter pay” coalition to collect Natural Resource Damages from egregious polluters has resulted in stepped-up NJDEP efforts to bring dioxin polluter Occidental Chemical to justice. Baykeeper lobbied against bills in both states that would have limited the amount and types of Natural Resource Damage claims. Baykeeper worked with the NYS Attorney General Office and a coalition of Hudson organizations to bring a Natural Resource Damage claim against General Electric for polluting the Hudson with PCBs.
- Baykeeper’s Public Trust Doctrine campaign put this ancient common law principal in the center of the debate for the redevelopment of the region’s waterfront. Through the PTD, we have defended the public’s inalienable right of access, not just to the water’s edge, but to freely and safely fish, swim, and boat in the Estuary.
This campaign started with a lawsuit in which Baykeeper was a defendant intervener in a case brought by a national homebuilders organization testing the constitutionality of NJ’s Waterfront Development Act. The victory set a precedent for unfettered access to our urban waterfront. Ware defending the public’s right of access to NY City and New Jersey beaches, and have begun to make the case that pollution restricts access as much or more than fences on the water’s edge.
- As a result of a legal settlement in a case brought by NYSDEC, Baykeeper and the American Littoral Society were able to establish a Jamaica Bay Guardian–a full time advocate to protect and preserve Jamaica Bay.
- As a result of a law suit brought against NYC DEP for violations of nitrogen limits, Long Island Soundkeeper and NY/NJ Baykeeper will oversee the distribution of more than $4 million for environmental benefit projects in Jamaica Bay, the East River and Long Island Sound. These monies have already been used to establish pumpout boats on the Sound and on Jamaica Bay run by Baykeeper and Soundkeeper. In 2007 over $1 million was distributed from this fund for habitat restoration and nitrogen reduction projects.
- As a result of a citizen suit under RCRA with NRDC and Hackensack Riverkeeper as partners, EPA ordered Occidental Chemical to increase the dioxin Superfund study area from the Passaic River to include the Newark Bay, Kill Van Kull, and Lower Hackensack River.
- In 2004 Baykeeper, NRDC and Green Faith brought a NEPA suit against the Corps of Engineers for failure to produce a supplementary EIS for dredging in a Superfund site, Newark Bay (see above). The Corps has agreed to do an Environmental Assessment. We believe that the outcome, which is imminent, will set a precedent for environmentally protective dredging in the Harbor and around the country.