Once upon a time, a South Carolina wastewater treatment plant repeatedly violated the Clean Water Act by dumping illegal amounts of mercury into a river. Unsurprisingly, several environmental organizations responded by suing. They could do so because the Clean Water Act contains “citizen suit” provisions that allow private citizens to sue for the law’s violation. They won, and a trial court ordered the company to pay a fine to the government as a punishment.
Pretty simple, right? But the question of whether the environmental groups had the right to sue went all the way to the Supreme Court. Why? The answer lies in one of the Constitution’s less famous provisions — the vesting of power over “cases or controversies” in the judicial branch — and in the Supreme Court’s use of this provision to create the doctrine of “standing.” This doctrine is a powerful barrier to the use of citizen suits. Because most major environmental protection laws rely on citizen suit provisions, the law of standing is one of the most far-reaching legal rules affecting green activists today.Know Where You Stand
What is standin... Read more