Caring for the Planet

Latham has long offered pro bono support to individuals and organizations that seek to advance environmental sustainability and protect our planet. These clients use innovative technology and create productive partnerships to address environmental challenges around the world.

Since 2016, our lawyers have advised The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch nonprofit that seeks to rid the world’s oceans of floating debris using large-scale, environmentally sound technologies. Latham has helped The Ocean Cleanup, as a foreign entity, navigate the US regulatory regime and consult with relevant federal and state agencies to determine the permissions and permits for launching its systems in the Pacific Ocean. In the spirit of collaboration and open-source science, Latham has facilitated The Ocean Cleanup’s relationships with several complementary environmental organizations and government agencies. And, in 2018, our lawyers began advising the nonprofit as it modified, and sought approvals to launch, its technology to capture trash in rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup’s River Interceptor project demonstrated its value in late 2022 and early 2023. The Interceptor 007 had been recently installed in Los Angeles’ Ballona Creek when California faced severe storms and significant floods. With the creek experiencing extremely high runoff, the solar-powered Interceptor was put to the test. It excelled in its role, capturing an estimated 155,000 pounds of trash, thereby preventing the trash from entering the Pacific Ocean. The Ocean Cleanup’s River Interceptor is pioneering technology, leading the way in efforts to mitigate aquatic waste.

“Dam removal is the first important step toward guaranteeing that the critical resources the river provides will be protected and available for future generations.”

Nikki Buffa, Partner, Orange County

Our lawyers also advise many nonprofits that protect the world’s resources and promote biodiversity. For example, Trees for Life is a conservation charity dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands through the restoration of the Caledonian Forest, which supports wildlife found nowhere else in Britain. In 2023, the organization partnered with Rewilding Europe to start rewilding Scotland’s Affric Highlands, an effort that will transform the area into a refuge for native species and create more resilient ecosystems. Our lawyers are assisting Trees for Life in establishing a new charity specifically dedicated to this project.

Other engagements with environmental and conservation nonprofits include providing governance advice to Friends of Tacugama as it seeks to raise awareness for wildlife conservation and for its work with its sister organization, the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Sierra Leone. In addition, our lawyers have helped scale Eden Reforestation Projects to become one of the largest private reforestation organizations in the world. This nonprofit has developed a pioneering way to disrupt the cycle of poverty that contributes to deforestation: pay impacted communities a fair wage for planting and protecting native trees. 

Latham continues to be involved in what The American Lawyer has called “a groundbreaking case for climate justice.” In early 2021, a Latham team began representing Ridges to Riffles as it advocated for the removal of several dams on the Klamath River in the Pacific Northwest. These dams have devastated the salmon population and upset the local ecosystem, in addition to restricting people's access to the river. Over the course of the project, our team has provided strategic regulatory advice, prepared Ridges to Riffles for meetings with regulators and other stakeholders, and offered strategic comments on the draft Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) environmental impact statement. In November 2022, FERC approved the removal of the dams, kicking off the largest dam removal and river restoration project in US history; the reservoir drawdown began in January 2024. When the dam removal project is complete, hundreds of miles of fish habitat that was previously cut off will reopen, and more than 2,000 acres of land will be repopulated with native plants, trees, and shrubs. Read more about this work.