Nonprofits Sued Trump Admin Over Jeffrey Bossert Clark’s Unlawful Memo Prohibiting the Use of Long-Standing Settlement Tool

Groups Commend Biden Admin’s Swift Reversal of Unlawful Policy, Return of Supplemental Environmental Projects in Settlements

Washington, D.C. — Late Thursday, President Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) retracted an unlawful Trump administration policy, which prohibited the DOJ and EPA from including supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) in settlements for pollution-related violations.

Represented by Democracy Forward, Conservation Law Foundation and the Surfrider Foundation filed suit over the unlawful policy change, which was issued in a March 2020 memo written by former Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Jeffrey Bossert Clark. Shortly after, the EPA adopted this memo’s conclusions in practice.

In response to the DOJ and EPA’s retraction of the unlawful Trump administration policy, Conservation Law Foundation, the Surfrider Foundation, and Democracy Forward issued the following joint statement: 

“Jeffrey Bossert Clark’s unlawful memo upended a decades-old, successful practice.

“Supplemental environmental projects have long been used to secure important, real-world benefits for the environment and the communities most harmed by pollution, which are disproportionately low-income and communities of color.

“We’re proud of our fight to ensure the DOJ and EPA follow the law and reverse the unlawful Trump administration policy, and we applaud the Biden administration for swiftly moving to do just that.”


Last October, Conservation Law Center filed suit against the Trump administration for unlawfully terminating the use of SEPs in pollution-related settlements. The Surfrider Foundation joined the lawsuit in December. The environmental groups are represented by Democracy Forward.

The Trump administration’s policy barring SEPs was laid out in a March 2020 memo. In it, Clark unilaterally and incorrectly stated that settlements including SEPs are not legally sound.

SEPs allow violators of environmental statutes to address the effects of their pollution, or to forestall future pollution, through projects that benefit communities. In the Boston area, where Conservation Law Foundation members live and recreate, SEPs have, for instance:

  • Required the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s commuter lines to switch to low-sulfur fuel, at a cost of $1 million;
  • Led Sterling Suffolk Racecourse to allocate over $700k to monitor local watersheds and facilitate access to marshes near Boston Harbor;
  • Required Clean Harbors of Braintree, Inc. to plant 800 trees in low-income and historically-disadvantaged neighborhoods following a hazardous waste incident.


Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

Conservation Law Foundation forges lasting solutions to environmental challenges for the people of New England. For 50 years, CLF has taken on powerful opponents who would pollute our air and water and squander our resources. Our deep local knowledge, legal acumen, and policy expertise make CLF a prime mover in building our clean energy future, countering climate change, and safeguarding our communities. We never give up and go home because we are home.

The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s ocean, waves and beaches, for all people, through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over one million supporters, activists and members, with more than 170 volunteer-led chapters and student clubs in the U.S., and more than 700 victories protecting our coasts.

Press Contacts:

Charisma Troiano
Democracy Forward
(202) 701-1781

Jake O’Neill
Conservation Law Foundation
(617) 850-1709

The Surfrider Foundation
(949) 492-8170