Assistant Attorney General for Lands and Natural Resources; Founding attorney, Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund
As a young attorney at the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington in the late sixties, James Moorman brought two cases that turned out to be major milestones in environmental law. One was a petition to the Department of Agriculture to deregister the pesticide DDT. Dissatisfied with the response, Moorman filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Over the objections of the Justice Department, the court held that the Center had standing to sue and after many further administrative and judicial proceedings, DDT was deregistered by the new agency responsible for pesticides regulation, EPA. Moorman’s other big case for the Center ended up at least temporarily halting construction of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline primarily on the ground that the right-of-way was inadequate. To this argument, Moorman added a brief reference to the just passed National Environmental Policy Act calling for environmental impact statements on major federal projects. (Another pioneer, William Reilly, then a staff member at the new Council on Environmental Quality, was on the receiving end of Moorman’s claim and had to hustle to alert federal agencies that the new law could constrain their actions.) Moorman won his case, but Congress approved the pipeline anyway.
Moorman later led the new Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund working on forestry issues among others, and then served as Assistant Attorney General for Lands and Natural Resources when the Justice Department’s caseload of complex cases was growing fast. He is a strong advocate for liberal standing for citizens to sue to give environmentalists a seat at the table in litigation and to counter pressures for agency takeover by regulated interests. He confesses to being a pessimist about whether the U.S can overcome the influence of big money from business interests and act boldly on issues like climate change.