Citizen Suits

Overview

Citizen suits under the major environmental laws enable private plaintiffs to seek penalties, court ordered injunctive relief, and attorneys fees and costs.  Citizen suits may challenge, for example, construction of a facility or its operations, or may seek to enforce the law or to remedy historic pollution.  Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. is in the forefront of using our environmental experience to prevent citizen suits where possible, and to creatively and aggressively defend these lawsuits against public and private plants and facilities.  We have also represented plaintiffs in citizen suits to protect their health, safety and rights.  Diverse and extensive litigation experience, coupled with our knowledge of environmental regulations and compliance, equips us to manage a full range of environmental citizen suit issues.

Full Description

Our broad understanding of environmental compliance, enforcement, and litigation enhances our ability to handle complex citizen suits.  Decades of experience with government environmental enforcement cases, how environmental regulations are developed, interpreted and applied, and a wide range of compliance issues enables us to view the citizen suit in context of a larger universe of environmental disputes.   Similarly, our experience with other types of litigation, such as complex multiparty litigation concerning responsibility for historic contamination, litigation concerning commercial disputes, and land use litigation, prepares us for the courtroom battles and the extensive preparation necessary before a lawyer steps foot in court.  We bring a full array of tools to the table, including negotiating skills, experience working with scientific experts, and an understanding of what it takes to win in court.

Our starting point for a potential citizen suit is prevention.  Disputes begin long before the first pleading is filed.  As with our regulatory practice area, we offer counseling on strategies for neutralizing contentious issues before litigation begins.  We understand that our clients want to use their resources most effectively to attack a problem. 

When litigation cannot be prevented, we keep in mind that creative problem solving sometimes remains the answer to litigation.  We do not apply a “one size fits all” strategy or a single set of solutions to our highly varied cases.  Instead, we examine each problem and work to explore a full array of possibilities with our clients.  In some cases, continued litigation is the best path, but other cases remain ripe for settlement.  A few examples of  solving disputes creatively include:

  • In Citizens for a Better Env’t v. City of New Bedford, Mass. , we resolved favorably this major citizen enforcement action for alleged failure to comply with a consent decree obligation to construct a $200 million wastewater treatment facility.  Settlement reduced the cost of the facility by one half, secured funding from the Commonwealth for over 60% of the reduced cost, and included forgiveness of the state penalty, with only a minimal federal penalty assessment.
  • We resolved favorably Don’t Waste Arizona, Inc. v. Parker, Ariz. in a settlement that yielded a small Supplemental Project, and minimal other expenditures for the town and its joint venturer, the Colorado River Indian Tribes.
  • In NRDC v. Risdon Mfg., Inc. , we resolved favorably one of the first citizen suits brought under the Clean Water Act.  The case broke ground on the use of a Special Master as mediator in private environmental enforcement actions.

Not every case is settled and nothing replaces the hard work necessary to be prepared for trial.  Once we go to trial, our record is strong.  A few examples follow:

  • Despite citizen group objections that the penalties were too low, the injunctive relief was not enough, and the asserted economic benefit from the alleged violations had not been recovered, we convinced a federal district court to dismiss a citizen suit because the consent decree we negotiated with the state that had been entered in state court was diligent prosecution that precluded the citizen suit under federal law.  Clean Air Council v. Sunoco, Inc.
  • We successfully defended a permit issued by the New Hampshire Division of Air Resources against a citizen suit alleging that the permit was issued in violation of federal and state laws.  In re Wheelabrator Claremont Co.
  • We successfully defended against a landmark citizen suit alleging unlawful disposal of incinerator ash.  The United States district court dismissed the case, and the appeals court affirmed.  Environmental Defense Fund v. Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.
  • We defeated several lawsuits by citizen groups and government entities in numerous venues to help our client get a major glass manufacturing facility built.  First, we prevented an injunction in federal court that would have halted the construction. ( Goodman v. Guardian Indus. Corp. )  Second, we defeated challenges to the emission credits necessary to construct ( Atlantic States Legal Found. v. Pataki ), and challenges to the sufficiency of the pollution controls on the plant. (Goodman v. N.Y. State Dept. of Envtl. Conservation and Guardian Indus. Corp .)  Finally, we negotiated a settlement with EPA and the citizen groups that caused the citizens to dismiss their petitions to EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board.
  • We defeated a citizen suit that sought to stop construction of another glass plant in another state.  Sierra Club and R.C. Travis v. Larry J. Wilson and Allan E. Stokes .
Representative Matters
Representative Matters
  • Creativity: We resolved favorably one of the first citizen suits brought under the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The case broke ground on the use of a special master as mediator in private environmental enforcement actions. Clients under CWA cases have included private industry and public wastewater treatment facilities.
  • Skill: At the trial court and again on appeal, we successfully defended a landmark citizen suit alleging unlawful disposal of incinerator ash.  Citizen suits often require experience within multiple areas of environmental law in addition to litigation skills, and this case was no exception.  Broad strategy considerations required a sophisticated understanding of both the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Clean Air Act (CAA), as well as experience working with experts on scientific issues.
  • Strategy: We have defeated several lawsuits by citizen groups and government entities in numerous venues to help clients construct manufacturing facilities.  In one of these cases, these efforts included defeating challenges to the emission credits necessary to construct, and challenges to the sufficiency of the pollution controls on the plant.   Thereafter, we negotiated a settlement with EPA and the citizen groups that lead to the citizens dismissing their pending petitions.
View Site in Mobile | Classic
Share by: