Mission and History

Our Mission

Plains Justice provides a legal, scientific and technical voice for northern plains communities to conserve natural resources and to make the transition to a new energy future.  Our core programming involves scientific and technical research/support relative to clean energy, legal advocacy for communities impacted by natural resource issues, and innovative peer-to-peer training in the built electric utility sector.  Each of our efforts drives at energy conservation, transitioning to a new energy future, and assisting our communities in achieving these objectives.

Our History

Shortly after its founding in 2006, Plains Justice represented citizens in their years-long successful opposition to a proposal for 750MW of new coal-fired electrical generation on their doorsteps.  Since then, Plains Justice has been advising and representing citizen advocates in multiple arenas.

Plains Justice has drafted comments on and led opposition to a coal-fired power plant proposal impacting a national park.  As the Plains legal arm of the international coalition to stop dirty oil flowing out of the Alberta tar sands, we represented local residents in siting proceedings, produced hard-hitting reports on pipeline safety and emergency response planning, and drafted technical comments on permit issues.  Our work was foundational in bringing the Keystone XL pipeline to international attention.  We have continued environmental litigation in a number of states and contexts over the years.

In cooperation with others, Plains Justice has also analyzed multiple environmental political issues and developed action recommendations leading toward regulatory reform involving coal combustion waste from regional power plants, and state statutory and regulatory proposals to address global warming, including carbon regulation and efficiency mandates.


The states we serve get their electricity primarily from coal-fired power plants. Many also produce large amounts of coal for domestic and global markets. Plains Justice works with grassroots, regional and national organizations to clean up coal plant pollution, reduce mining impacts, and find cleaner, cost-effective power sources. We have represented local residents and Dakota Resource Council in their decade-long opposition to a proposed 5000+ acre coal strip mine near Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Plains Justice also represents state organizations before utility regulatory agencies, advocating for strong energy efficiency programming and fair regulations to give smaller renewable energy developers (like schools and small towns) equal footing in the industry. We participate in transmission stakeholder groups and clean energy coalitions and helped establish the legal structure for the Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System.


In November 2007, Plains Justice published its own study evaluating the quality of Iowa’s coal combustion waste disposal monitoring and enforcement. The study showed leaching even from Iowa’s better-regulated coal ash sanitary landfills, but other sites have weaker protections and no groundwater monitoring. Our updated 2010 study has been submitted to EPA in support of stronger federal regulation, in coordination with a large coalition of public health and conservation organizations.


One of the first organizations to bring tar sands pipelines to national attention, Plains Justice represented North Dakota landowners in Keystone I siting proceedings before the North Dakota Public Service Commission, and represented Dakota Rural Action in Keystone XL pipeline siting proceedings at the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. We continue to assist grassroots groups up and down the length of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Landowners the length of the route from Montana to Texas are concerned about water contamination, oil spills, construction damage and abandonment practices for this heavy crude oil pipeline from the Alberta tar sands. More information is also available in our policy brief: The Keystone XL Pipeline: Not Needed, Too Expensive, Better Solutions.