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WELCOME TO JESSICA BLOME

Jessica Blome is a Senior Associate with Greenfire Law.

A native Iowan, she began practicing environmental law as an Assistant Attorney General with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office after graduating from the University of Iowa College of Law in 2007. There, she represented the Missouri Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture in civil environmental, animal welfare, and food safety litigation. She served as counsel to the Missouri Natural Resources Trustee, leading negotiations on behalf of Missouri for multi-million dollar restoration projects on public lands contaminated by heavy metals mining. She also prosecuted violations of the state Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and Clean Air Act.

Her most notable cases involved an unpermitted organic composting operation located next to a sensitive geologic area, a collapsed wastewater treatment impoundment, and a landfill located in a residential area suffering from a “subsurface smoldering event,” or underground landfill fire. Jessica left Missouri for Sonoma County, California in 2013 to accept a position as a Senior Staff Attorney with the non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund. There, she represented citizen plaintiffs and non-profit groups in strategic impact litigation on behalf of wildlife. She lead the team of litigators to victory against a roadside zoo in Iowa, securing the first-ever successful citizen prosecution of Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act against the owner of captive-held endangered species. She also lead a coalition of non-profit groups in the first-ever lawsuit striking down a federal contract with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services because it violated the California Environmental Quality Act.

In 2016, Jessica became the Deputy Director of the San Francisco Ethics Commission, where she was responsible for the investigation and enforcement of the City’s campaign finance, government ethics, lobbying, and conflict of interest laws. Jessica joined Greenfire Law in March of 2018 and represents public interest clients in environmental, land use, public records, and animal welfare litigation.

Rachel Doughty
Friends of Outlet Creek settle cases with Mendocino County

After years of hard work by local activists and with the assistance of Greenfire Law, the Grist Creek Aggregates' asphalt plant has been removed from the company's Longvale site at the confluence of Outlet and Corral Creeks. Outlet Creek is important salmon spawning habitat and nearby residents and frequent visitors to the area, organized as Friends of Outlet Creek, had watched with increasing alarm as GCA's operations expanded to include asphalt production at this sensitive location.  

With Greenfire Law's assistance, the Friends' group sued Mendocino County and the County's Air District three times over. Their efforts have paid off with a settlement that ensures that the air will remain cleaner. The County's resolutions regarding the asphalt plant will be repealed and the site now holds no air permit allowing an asphalt plant. Any future effort to put an asphalt plant at the confluence site will require prior notification of Friends of Outlet Creek and land use and environmental review by the County and Air District. 

California moves to increase housing supply

In January 2017, California enacted new regulations designed to incentivize homeowners to increase California’s housing supply by building in their own backyards. Also known as “in-law suites” and “granny flats,” accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”) are independent living units complete with their own kitchen, living area, and separate entrance, but are located on the same lot as an existing one-family dwelling.

There are many community benefits to ADUs: they diversify the cost of living in a community, distribute the increase in housing supply across a geographic area, and have a low visual impact on neighborhood character. Prior to the 2017 regulations, many cities, particularly in the Bay Area, made it difficult for property owners to add ADUs, even going so far as to outright prohibit them. The new regulations reduce the barriers to building ADUs by barring local agencies from banning ADUs in any residential district or having more restrictive rules than allowed by the state Government Code (Section 65852.2). For instance, local agencies may not require public hearings, impose parking requirements in certain circumstances, or impose sewer fees where the ADU is attached or within the one-family dwelling structure.      

To learn more, visit the California Department of Housing and Community Development - Accessory Dwelling Unit

Written by Chelsea Linsley

Photo via Flickr

FDA REVERSED ITS POSITION ON NESTLÉ BOTTLED WATER THANKS TO GREENFIRE LAW CLIENTS STORY OF STUFF PROJECT AND COURAGE CAMPAIGN

Greenfire Law clients Story of Stuff Project and Courage Campaign came together to push the FDA to further investigate what they believe was the wrongful reversal of their position on Nestlé bottled spring water. 

“We think they need to reopen the investigation,” said Michael O’Heaney, executive director of the Story of Stuff Project. “We believe that the FDA fell for a phony argument from Nestlé’s attorney hook, line and sinker.”

Our clients, Story of Stuff and Courage Campaign, are concerned Nestlé is in fact using groundwater from the San Bernadino National Forest as opposed to federal regulations defining spring water. 

To learn more, please visit Desert Sun - FDA reverses its position on Nestlé bottled water, documents show. 

Rachel Doughty
WELCOME TO CHELSEA LINSLEY

We are excited to announce the addition of a new associate! Chelsea Linsley began at Greenfire Law in April and comes to us from The George Washington University Law School in Washington, DC where she studied environmental and human rights law. Chelsea has experience working on both the global and local level on matters related to government and corporate accountability and sustainable development. At the Center for International Environmental Law, Chelsea helped author contributions to the U.N. Intergovernmental Working Group for the Elaboration of a Treaty on Business and Human Rights and helped develop a legal theory for holding fiduciaries accountable for sustainable investments. Chelsea is an avid hiker, yogi, and tiny house enthusiast. She is a member of the California State Bar and speaks fluent German and passable French.

Rachel Doughty
GREENFIRE LAW BLOCKS MENDOCINO COUNTY AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT DISTRICT’S EFFORTS TO EVADE JUDICIAL REVIEW

The Mendocino County Air Quality Management District and Grist Creek Aggregates (which holds two Air District permits for an asphalt plant near Willits on the banks of Outlet Creek) asserted that citizens have no right under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to directly challenge a failure to consider the environmental impacts of permits issued by air districts. The Court of Appeal held unequivocally that CEQA does provide concerned citizens the right to sue.

In a second case involving the same asphalt plant, the Court of Appeals blocked the lower court’s dismissal of Friends’ case and explained why an earlier case, Lopez v. Imperial County Sheriff’s Office (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1, does not hold that “a tie vote of an administrative agency results in no action” in all circumstances. The Mendocino County Air Quality Management District’s Hearing Board had argued that its inability to reach a decision on Friends’ administrative challenge because of a tie vote of its members meant that the Hearing Board had failed to take any action that could be reviewed by a court.  Friends argued that the Air District’s argument would insulate agency actions from judicial review—perhaps indefinitely—even while polluting activities continued. The Court put the Air Board’s argument to rest, clarifying that the Lopez case and other cases cited by the Hearing Board were about remedies, not access to the court. Friends will get its day in court.

Both opinions are slated for publication.

Rachel Doughty
FOREST SERVICE RELEASES ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTS IN RESPONSE TO STORY OF STUFF FOIA LAWSUIT

In 2015, Greenfire Law helped Story of Stuff administratively appeal the Forest Service's failure to release documents regarding Nestle's diversion of water from the San Bernardino National Forest as required by the Freedom of Information Act. Because the response following that appeal was still insufficient, Greenfire Law sued on Story of Stuff's behalf.  In April 2016, an additional 1200 documents, initially withheld, were released to Story of Stuff. These newly released documents are directly on issue regarding the Forest Service's mismanagement of Nestle's special use permit on the San Bernardino National Forest. Story of Stuff and Courage Campaign plan to use these documents to educate the public regarding the impacts of water diversion to our public lands.

Rachel Doughty
BAN ON MICROBEAD PLASTICS SIGNED INTO LAW

Recently, advocates for healthier oceans and other marine ecosystems notched a major victory in the US Congress. On December 28, 2015, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 was signed into law, effectuating a prohibition against the sale or distribution of cosmetic products like soaps and shampoos that contain intentionally-added plastic microbeads. The prohibition on manufacturing of such products begins on July 1, 2017, and the prohibition on introducing such products into interstate commerce begins on July 1, 2018. This victory comes on the heels of recent success in California where Greenfire Law client, the 5 Gyres Institute, along with Greenfire itself, helped draft the Plastic Microbeads Nuisance Prevention Law, which came into affect on October 8, 2015.

Rachel Doughty
GREENFIRE CLIENTS FIGHT TO SAVE NATURAL AREA IN HEART OF ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA

The Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County and Indian Riverkeeper, two nonprofit associations dedicated to environmental protection represented by Greenfire Law and Hartsell Law of Winter Haven, Florida, recently filed their opening brief in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to continue their efforts to block the Federal Highway Administration’s (“FHWA”) approval of construction a six-lane highway and bridge through two ecologically-sensitive nature preserves in southeast Florida. The Savannas Preserve State Park and the North Fork of the Saint Lucie River Aquatic Preserve are among the few remaining expanses of natural habitat within a highly urbanized region. In the cases of certain species, like mangroves, construction of a bridge through these nature preserves would decimate those species’ only remaining habitat in the area. Both of these nature preserves also protect from urbanization the greater ecosystem services provided by the St. Lucie River and the extensive river and estuarine habitat in the area. The Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie and Indian Riverkeeper seek to show the appellate court that the FHWA should have chosen an available alternative highway route that would not impact these critical public resources while still addressing traffic needs.

GREENFIRE CLIENT HUMMAP CHALLENGES NEW HUMBOLDT MARIJUANA LAND USE ORDINANCE

On February 26, 2016, the Humboldt-Mendocino Marijuana Advocacy Project (the "Advocacy Project"), represented by Greenfire Law, filed a complaint against the County of Humboldt and the County's Board of Supervisors. The complaint asserts that the County approved its novel Commercial Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance without adequately analyzing and mitigating the significant adverse environmental impacts associated with implementing this new ordinance. The Advocacy Project's members have continually advocated since its founding in 2010 for an ecologically conscious future for the marijuana industry in Northern California, which, along with the rural character of Humboldt County, is presently threatened by the industrialization of cultivation of marijuana. Accordingly, the Advocacy Project is pursuing litigation against Humboldt County under the California Environmental Quality Act to ensure that the County and its Board of Supervisors fully consider the environmental impacts that industrial-scale marijuana cultivation will have on the surrounding environment, as well as other industries that rely on healthy and sustainable ecosystems.

Rachel Doughty
GREENFIRE LAW ATTORNEY PUBLISHED IN TULANE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW JOURNAL

Tulane Law School has published the first law journal to be entirely dedicated to the legal issues surrounding plastic pollution, and a Greenfire Law attorney penned one of the articles. The Tulane Environmental Law Journal on Plastic Pollution features an article by Dr. Marcus Eriksen of 5 Gyres and attorney Rachel Doughty of Greenfire Law on a 5 Gyres sponsored bill to ban the use of plastic microbeads in consumer personal care products. Variations of this legislation, originally penned by attorneys Rachel Doughty and Lisa Kaas Boyle for 5 Gyres, has been introduced in New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, and California. Plastic microbeads are used as exfoliants in many commonly used consumer products such as face and body scrubs, soap, and even some toothpastes. According to research conducted by 5 Gyres Institute, these exfoliating products contain thousands of polyethylene and/or polypropylene micro-plastic particles. While natural exfoliants like rice, husks, or nut meal biodegrade in the environment, plastic exfoliants pose an environmental hazard because they do not biodegrade. Once in the environment, micro-plastics remain and attract other pollutants present in the environment, like pesticides, PCBEs, PAH’s, and other toxic industrial chemicals. Journal issues can be ordered here http://www.law.tulane.edu/tlsjournals/enviro/index.aspx or by emailing lawjournals@tulane.edu.

Rachel Doughty
MICROPLASTICS IN PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS A MENACE TO WATER TREATMENT

Rachel Doughty will speak on a panel on February 22 at Tulane Law School’s 19th Annual Summit on Environmental Law and Policy regarding legislation she recently drafted for client 5 Gyres, and which will be the subject of an article to be published in an upcoming issue of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal focused on the issue of Plastic Pollution. Legislation to ban microplastics in consumer personal care products designed to be washed into public sewers has been introduced in both New York and California. The bills were the subject of recent articles in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Rachel Doughty