October 01, 2017

Clean Water Act Citizen Suits: What the Numbers Tell Us

Mark A. Ryan

Citizen suits have played a major role in environmental law since the early 1970s when Congress passed most of the federal environmental statutes that now make up our environmental law canon. Suits brought by citizens against violators and the government have done much to define modern environmental law. Of the three cornerstone environmental statutes—the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Clean Air Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)—the citizen suit provisions of the CWA have been some of the most heavily litigated and thus provide a good view into the workings of citizen suits generally. This article looks at the data surrounding the numbers and types of CWA citizen suits filed over time as well as who is filing them, and where.

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