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EPCRA Citizen Suits After Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment

June 1998

Citation: 28 ELR 10306

Issue: 6

Author: Jim Hecker

Editors' Summary: In March, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision in Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 118 S. Ct. 1003, 28 ELR 20434 (1998). The Court held that an environmental group lacked standing to sue a company for past EPCRA reporting violations, because the group failed to meet the redressability requirement for Article III standing. In a follow-up to his November 1997 ELR Article on the Steel Co. litigation, Jim Hecker, an environmental enforcement attorney at Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, looks at the implications of the Steel Co. case. He first discusses the holding of the case and the nature of EPCRA suits. Then, he explores what Congress can do in the wake of the opinion to restore citizen authority to sue for past EPCRA violations. Finally, he examines the impact the case will have on citizen suits for civil penalties when the defendant complies after suit is filed.

Jim Hecker is an environmental enforcement attorney at Trial Lawyers for Public Justice in Washington, D.C. In an Article published before the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 118 S. Ct. 1003, 28 ELR 20434 (1998), he argued that citizens should have standing to enforce wholly past violations under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act. Jim Hecker, Citizen Standing to Sue for Past EPCRA Violations, 27 ELR 10561 (Nov. 1997).

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