In our previous post, we began discussing a new rule passed by the Environmental Protection Agency which governs coal ash emissions. As we noted, the rules require groundwater monitoring to ensure that coal ash ponds do not accumulate excessively high levels of coal ash. The issue is an important one for the state of Georgia, since there are over twenty coal ash ponds here.
One of the important aspects of the regulation is that it will be states and private citizens who will be responsible for enforcing it rather than the federal government. This involves the issue of standing, which is a requirement for any private party to be able to enforce federal environmental regulations against a party who is bound by those regulations.
In order to enforce a federal environmental regulation as a private citizen, there are three basic requirements that must be met. First of all, the plaintiff must be able to show that he or she suffered an “injury in fact,” meaning an injury which is specific and which has either already occurred or which is about to occur. Second, the injury must be caused by the actions of the defendant rather than some other party. Third, standing also requires that the plaintiff’s injury has a good chance of being rectified by a court decision.
Standing is important in the world of environmental law, because it has a gate-keeping function with respect to the court system. If you are unable to establish standing, you are unable to seek a remedy in court. Those who are injured by an individual or a company’s failure to abide by environmental law should, therefore, be sure to work with an attorney who is skilled not only in helping plaintiffs understand environmental law, but also at getting plaintiffs into the court system to have their injuries redressed.
Source: wabe.org, “First-Ever Federal Coal Ash Rules Disappoint Environmental Groups,” Molly Samuel, Dec. 19, 2014.
Stack & Associates, P.C., “Land Use and Growth in Georgia: Clean Water Act Issues Seminar,” Jan 12, 2009.