June 01, 2019

Citizen Suit Trends in California: A Harbinger for the Future of Environmental Enforcement?

Tom Boer and Clare Ellis

It was widely anticipated that the Trump era would be marked by a surge in citizen suit enforcement of environmental laws, to fill a perceived “gap” in government-driven environmental enforcement. This article examines how environmental citizen suits have fared during the Trump era—with specific focus on the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), and California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (more commonly referred to as “Prop 65”). California courts historically have been important testing grounds for environmental plaintiffs, but in recent years there is evidence that citizen plaintiffs may be beginning to encounter obstacles.

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