WEI Heads to Court to Protect Antioch’s Communities and Wildlife

On Friday, January 21, the Wild Equity Institute will appear in court to protect human health and endangered species. You can attend the oral argument: it is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. in courtroom 10 on the 19th floor of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

The lawsuit involves PG&E’s Gateway Generating Station, a natural gas power plant in Antioch. Because of several miscues by regulatory agencies and calculated risks taken by PG&E, the power plant was constructed and continues to operate without federal air pollution permits. Community groups concerned about the power plant’s pollution discovered that the requisite permits weren’t in place, and brought suit to demand pollution reductions to protect human health. Unfortunately, the EPA is now attempting to cut a sweetheart deal with PG&E over the legal violation: without first considering the impacts of this deal on endangered species at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, including the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly, the Contra Costa Wallflower, and the Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose.

This is a serious concern because the same pollution that is impacting human health is also polluting endangered species habitats at the Refuge, which is less than 1 mile from the power plant. Nitrogen emissions from the power plant change the chemical composition of the dune soil, creating favorable conditions for invasive weeds. These weeds crowd out the endangered plants and the host plant for the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly. The Butterfly, already on the precipice of extinction, is closely associated with its host plant, and when the host plant is crowded out the Butterfly’s population plummets even further.

The Wild Equity Institute will bring these concerns to Judge Susan Illston and ask the Court to block PG&E from entering a sweetheart deal with the EPA: at least until the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has an opportunity to weigh-in on the deal’s terms. If you’d like to see us in action, come to the hearing: drop us a line to let us know you’ll be there.

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