Northern Californians are likely familiar with the legal battle to protect public access to Martin’s Beach on the San Mateo coast, where a billionaire landowner tried to close off this beloved stretch of public beach to expand his own private playground. Eric Buescher (pictured, below) was the lead attorney in the case, fighting for the public on behalf of Surfrider Foundation. After Eric and his team won, the courts upheld the victory all the way to the US Supreme Court. Now, Eric is the newest addition to Baykeeper’s legal team.
After receiving his law degree from Georgetown University, Eric worked as a legal researcher in Washington, D.C., where he’d spend long days at the Library of Congress. But Eric was soon headed for the prominent law firm of Cotchett, Pitre, and McCarthy in San Francisco, where for the next ten years he worked on land and water use cases, elder abuse, and fraud, ensuring that the victims had access to justice.
Eric became familiar with Baykeeper while practicing environmental law, when he frequently came across Baykeeper court decisions in his research. He got to know our work most immediately through Baykeeper v. US Environmental Protection Agency, a 2019 lawsuit that defeated Trump’s attempt to allow Cargill to pave over the Redwood City salt ponds. Eric was on the legal team representing our partner organizations and worked closely with Baykeeper’s legal staff, seeing firsthand our expertise and passion for protecting the Bay. So when Eric decided he wanted to focus exclusively on environmental law just when Baykeeper had posted an opening for a senior attorney, it was a perfect fit!
On his first day on the job, Eric learned how Baykeeper’s field investigation team had captured drone video images of petroleum coke from the Valero refinery spilling into the Bay while being loaded into cargo ships at the Port of Benicia. Petcoke is a leftover of oil refining and is sold overseas, where it’s burned as a dirty fuel source that contributes to the climate crisis.
Under Eric’s leadership, we filed Baykeeper v. Valero in March. The lawsuit shows that no company is too large to be held accountable for polluting the Bay. “Each part of the Bay is connected to the whole,” Eric observed. “I remember an early visit with my family to Sonoma, touching the water in the San Pablo Bay Wildlife Refuge and realizing this is the very same water that washes against the shores of Santa Clara County. When a polluter harms one part of the Bay, their actions are harming the whole connected system of waterways.”
That’s exactly why Eric is leading the charge against Valero to end its polluting activities and stop harming the Bay, as well as all the communities and wildlife that depend on it.
This article is from Baykeeper's Spring/Summer 2022 Newsletter.