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Most environmental statutes provide the public certain specific rights to participate in permitting procedures. For example, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. sec. 6974(b), requires notice of any proposed permit be published in a local newspaper and that the public be allowed to comment and attend a public hearing.
Consent Orders and Settlements.
Several environmental statutes provide explicit procedures for allowing the public to review and comment on settlements of a dispute that could affect public health. For example, the public must be informed and provided an opportunity to comment on settlements under the RCRA imminent hazard provisions. 42 U.S.C. sec. 6973(d).
Most of the federal environmental laws also specifically empower citizens to bring a civil action to enforce compliance with the statute. Such citizen suit provisions occur in the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. sec. 1365; Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), 42 U.S.C. sec. 300j-8; the Clean Air Act(CAA), 42 U.S.C. sec. 7604; RCRA, 42 U.S.C. sec. 6972; Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. sec. 9659. These citizen suits typically allow actions both against private violators of the act and government agencies who have failed to meet their nondiscretionary duties. For example, under the CAA citizens can bring a suit against any person or entity: to enforce any emission standards or administrative order; to stop the construction or modification of any source in violation of the Act; or to force EPA to carry out any non-discretionary duty. Such citizen suits cannot be brought without first providing 60-day notice to the defendant nor can any suit be brought if EPA or a state is already diligently prosecuting a civil action. Penalties received through citizen suits are either earmarked for compliance and enforcement activities or applied to "mitigation projects" designed to protect public health or the environment. 42 U.S.C. sec. 7604. In most citizen suit provisions, the court will have discretion to award attorneys' fees to any prevailing party. Moreover, any prevailing party in a suit brought by or against the United States can receive reasonable attorneys' fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. sec. 2412.
Under some federal environmental statutes, citizens are given specific rights to petition for agency action. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), for example, citizens can petition EPA to issue a rule regulating a specific chemical. 15 U.S.C. sec. 2619. EPA must grant or deny the petition within 90 days. The petitioner can seek judicial review of any denial of the petition. RCRA provides another example; it specifically allows any person to petition EPA to promulgate, amend, or expel any regulation. 42 U.S.C. sec. 6974.
Judicial Review of Agency Action.
Many federal environmental statutes provide specific standards allowing citizens to seek judicial review of agency actions under the statute. See, e.g., CAA, 42 U.S.C. sec. 7607; RCRA, 42 U.S.C. sec. 6976; Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 15 U.S.C. sec. 2618. In the absence of any specific statutory review procedures, the Administrative Procedures Act grants citizens a general right of judicial review of any final agency action adversely affecting them. See Section 1.5: Role of Courts.
Citizen Enforcement of State Law.
State environmental statutes can also provide citizen rights to enforce or implement environmental laws. One of the strongest is Michigan's Environmental Protection Act, Mich. Stat. Ann. secs. 14.528(201)-(207), which allows any person to sue any other person for an injunction to protect the environment. Common law claims for nuisance, tort, trespass or strict liability also provide an important method for citizens to enforce ge6neral standards. See Section 4.2. Many federal statutory citizen suit provisions explicitly preserve citizen rights to sue under state or common law. See Section 1.1.2. National-Subnational Relations.
From Summary of Enviromental Law in the United States - CEC
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