Through development of litigation strategy and legal policy analysis, Surfrider Foundation's Legal Department is focused on furthering Surfrider's mission of protection and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves and beaches for all people through a powerful activist network. Surfrider engages in advocacy legal endeavors through the combined efforts of volunteer attorneys, legal interns, the Legal Issues Committee to the Board of Directors and staff.
Oil Dispersant Litigation - Surfrider is engaging in nationwide litigation to protect water quality and recreational opportunities from the negative impacts of oil spill dispersants. After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf, almost 2 million gallons of toxic dispersants were used, including the chemical Corexit, which has been banned in the United Kingdom. Surfrider, along with Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Environment, is asking the EPA to test these chemical dispersants to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Save Trestles - Over the past several years, the Surfrider Legal Team, along with our entire staff and activists throughout the world have been fighting to save the premier California surf spot, called Trestles, and the surrounding San Onofre State Beach, which is still jeopardized by a proposed toll road extension plan of the Transportation Corridor Agencies.
Lahaina Injection Wells - Maui's coastal waters are curently being degraded through the Lahaina wastewater facility's wastewater injection practices. Experts have shown a hydrologic connection from these wastewater discharges and the nearshore waters on the Northwest coast of Maui. Surfrider and a coalition of local groups, represented by Earthjustice, are suing the the County of Maui for federal Clean Water Act violations.
Texas Open Beaches Act - In 2009, 77% of Texans voted to include the Texas Open Beaches Act ("TXOBA") into the state Bill of Rights through the Prop 9 Constitutional Amendment. The TXOBA is the strongest beach access legislation in the nation, enacted in 1959. The legislation was recently attacked in Severance v. Patterson case by the Texas Supreme Court. Surfrider Texas Chapters are now mobilizing to defend their right to get to the beach through the Brannan v. State of Texas case and other means.
Maine Beach Access - The Maine Chapter has engaged in litigation alongside the Town of Kennebunkport over the Goose Rocks Beach access. The Chapter has also engaged in separate litigation involving Secret Beach and the town of Eastport. The Eastport litigation allowed Surfrider to have a voice before the highest court in the state, the Maine Law Court, which granted an expansive interpretation of the Colonial Ordinance of 1647 to allow recreational activity.
Strands Beach Access (2011) - Surfrider Foundation won a major victory after a full trial against the City of Dana Point in May of 2011 to secure full beach access at the Strands Beach in Southern California. The court held that the City of Dana Point’s public nuisance ordinance requiring locked gates and restrictive hours on beach access at the Strands main beach access trail be set aside. This case is now under appeal.
Florida REACH 8 Victory (2009) - On March 3, 2009, Surfrider Foundation set precedent to reform beach management practices, not only within the state of Florida, but throughout the nation. After an in-depth trial that lasted several,Administrative Law Judge Robert E. Meale ruled in favor of Plaintiff Surfrider Foundation and denied the town of Palm Beach a Joint Coastal Permit for the REACH 8 beach fill project because of the potential to harm environmental and recreational resources.
Ponte Vedra Beach Access in Florida (2006) - The Surfrider Foundation won a lawsuit regarding blocked beach access points in Ponte Vedra, Florida. In this case, the number of perpendicular beach access sites was adequate, but the ability to use the sites was severely limited by a lack of nearby parking spots.
Hawaii Water Quality at Kailua Bay (1995) - The Surfrider Foundation sued the City and County of Honolulu for over 13,000 Clean Water Act violations at Kailua Bay. As represented by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, the Surfrider suit was settled out of court with an agreement that the City and County would form an advisory council to monitor the area, research the use of ultraviolet cleansing of wastewater, and upgrade the existing wastewater treatment plants.
New Jersey Beach Access in the Borough of Deal (1994) - In the case, Surfrider Foundation v. Borough of Deal, the New Jersey Chapters were able to fight to ensure beach access for surfers in the Borough of Deal. Attorney Al Ferguson filed the suit on behalf of Surfrider Foundation and named Plaintiff Mario Kinkela, a Long Branch surf shop owner. The suit pressured Borough Commissioners to amend their initial restrictive ordinance and fully allow surfing again. This lawsuit sent a signal to other New Jersey towns not to be restrictive of surfer's rights to access.
Humboldt Pulp Mill Victory (1991) - The Surfrider Foundation won the second largest Clean Water Act lawsuit in United States history against two pulp mills in Humboldt County, California. As a result of this suit, one of these mills, the Louisiana Pacific mill, became the only pulp mill in North America to begin producing totally chlorine-free ("TCF") paper.
Water Quality - Surfrider’s Clean Water Program designed to address water pollution and restoring clean water to our beaches and coastal watersheds. There are many sources of water pollution, including storm water runoff, human sewage leaks and spills, agricultural runoff, and point sources. Surfrider advocates for continued funding for the water quality monitoring programs in states, as well as legislation to address harmful algal blooms and other sound green infrastructure initiatives.
Not the Answer - The goal of Surfrider Foundation’s Not the Answer campaign is to stop any new offshore drilling. With the Gulf Spill of 2010, fundamental flaws in offshore energy permitting were also brought to light, in addition to the inadequacies of oil spill response plans. Advocacy for legislation to stop new drilling and tighten drilling regulations, as well as opposition to any new drilling bills, will work to accomplish Surfrider’s objectives within the NTA campaign.
Rise Above Plastics - As Surfrider Foundation’s featured program for 2011, the Rise Above Plastics campaigns that are finding success with plastic bag bans across the nation have bubbled up to be recognized at the federal level. However, there may not be movement on this issue at the federal level before more geographically diverse localities and states show interest in addressing single-use plastics, including banning plastic bags. There is also federal legislation in the works to continue to support marine debris research, prevention and reduction.
National Ocean Policy - On July 19, 2010, President Obama issued an executive order, establishing the first comprehensive National Ocean Policy for the United States. Key elements of the policy include the establishment of a National Ocean Council (NOC), and regional implementation of marine spatial planning. Surfrider’s long-term goal is to formalize the National Ocean Policy (NOP) through passing federal legislation (e.g., Oceans 21). On April 16, 2013, the Obama Administration released the final NOP action plana. Surfrider is committed to supporting any legislation that would provide necessary funding for ocean and coastal management.
National Ocean Policy Law Review Article - In 2012, the Ocean & Coastal Law Journal from Maine Law School published an article by Surfrider Foundation's Legal Director, entitled "The U.S. National Ocean Policy: One Small Step for National Waters, but Will It Be the Giant Leap Needed for Our Blue Planet?" This article explains what the National Ocean Policy is, how it builds upon and is distinguished from past ocean governance laws, and what the NOP will need to succeed in effectively managing our coastal resources and preserving the value of our coasts, including the recreational and ecological services it provides. Namely, the NOP must overcome challenges related to the funding to execute the national objectives of the policy, procurement of political will in Congress to codify and/or support the NOP, and reconciling the top-down policy with the critical need to take cues from regional and local stakeholders.
Legal Handbook - This Legal Handbook is an informational resource aimed at enabling the Surfrider activist to further the mission of protection and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves and beaches. It is important to know and understand the legal rights we have in defending the environment and our right to enjoy it. Cases involving beach preservation, water quality and protection of special places usually deal with established environmental laws such as National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), etc...This manual is meant to serve as an overview of the laws and legal concepts that Surfrider Foundation is most likely to encounter in future legal battles.
2010 Conservation Voting Chart: The Conservation Voting Chart tracks the voting record of the members of the California Coastal Commission. The chart is authored and produced by a coalition of environmental groups, including the Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club, League for Coastal Protection, Coastal Protection Network and the California Coastkeeper Alliance. The chart provides critical insight into Commissioner performance relating to its impact on natural coastal resources and their potential to set important statewide precedents.
Legal Blog - Communicating the key litigation and legal policy endeavors of the Surfrider Foundation