Press Release
February 7, 2022

Holland & Knight Represents Disadvantaged Communities in Lawsuit Over Access to Water

SAN FRANCISCO and LOS ANGELES (February 7, 2022) - Holland & Knight is representing a group of prominent civil rights leaders in asking a federal judge to allow them to join a lawsuit involving access to water for disadvantaged communities in California.

Holland & Knight filed the motion to intervene in the case on behalf of Groundswell, a coalition of civil rights, affordable housing and environmental justice advocates. Led by Community Build, Inc., a nonprofit community development corporation established in 1992 in response to the conditions that led to the Los Angeles civil unrest of 1992, the intervener coalition includes leaders from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches, League of United Latin American Citizens, La Cooperativa Campesina de California, Farmworker Institute for Leadership Development, NewStart Housing Corporation, and The Two Hundred for Home Ownership, a statewide coalition of community leaders and minority advocates to mitigate the growing racial wealth gap through homeownership and home building in California.

Groundswell is seeking to intervene in a pending federal lawsuit filed by three environmental groups against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) (Center for Biological Diversity et. al v. United States Bureau of Land Management et. al, Case No.: 2:21-cv-02507-GW-AS). The lawsuit seeks to stop development of a water infrastructure project that would convert a dormant natural gas pipeline to transport water and allow that water to be delivered to communities in Central and Southern California.

Click here to view the Motion to Intervene and supporting documents.

"No-growth policies that deny access to clean water and affordable housing disproportionately hurt communities of color," said Robert J. Apodaca, co-founder and executive director of The Two Hundred for Home Ownership. "Using specious litigation to deny communities access to water is an insidious way to stop growth."

"Even before the current drought emergency disadvantaged communities suffered disproportionately from poor water quality, aging pipelines and underinvestment," said Robert Sausedo, CEO of Community Build, Inc. "The pandemic exacerbated these challenges for low income communities faced with limited resources and rapidly rising water bills."

Holland & Knight Partner Jennifer Hernandez is the lead attorney for Groundswell. She is also the lead attorney for The Two Hundred, a group of Latino and POC leaders, prominent activists and former legislators who have opposed many of California's energy, housing and climate policies because of their negative effects on middle- and low-income Californians. Ms. Hernandez has filed multiple lawsuits against the state and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), claiming that the rules violate fair housing and civil rights laws because they drive up housing costs and disproportionately affect minority and low-income communities.

Holland & Knight is one of the nation's leading law firms in representing the interests of disadvantaged communities against policies and regulations that disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. The law firm has won two major victories for affordable housing in California, including landmark cases affirming the enforceability and constitutionality of state laws intended to fast-track the permitting process for development of affordable housing under the Housing Affordability Act (HAA).

"This litigation involves the transfer of right-of-way permits for an existing pipeline that has been in the ground for more than 30 years," said Ms. Hernandez. "What the people trying to stop the pipeline really want is to stop water from getting to the communities that need it."

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