Businesses Liable For
Court upholds citizens' right to sue.
The Supreme Court has reaffirmed the
right of citizens to sue companies for violations of the Clean Water
Act and more than 20 other environmental laws. The decision is an
important one for businesses and environmental groups across the
Environmentalists use various tactics
to protect the environment, from boosting recycling programs to
protesting at the WTO Round in Seattle. One of the most effective
tactics is suing a company that is violating environmental protection
In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled
that civil lawsuits act as a deterrent to future violations and serve
a different purpose than government fines for past violations.
The case involved a lawsuit filed by
Friends of the Earth against Laidlaw Environmental Services. The
company argued that the government alone had the power to punish it
Although the claimants suffered no
personal injury from the pollution, the suit contended that they were
injured because their belief that the affected river was polluted
prohibited them from using it for recreational purposes.
On the day of the Supreme Court
ruling, the Environmental Protection Agency levied a record fine for
environmental law violations.
The EPA announced Koch Industries had
agreed to pay a $30 million fine. The company's pipeline leaked oil in
six states in more than 100 instances. It is the largest fine of its
kind on record.
In September of last year, Koch
Petroleum reached an agreement with the EPA to pay a $6 million fine
for violating the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act.
Authorities say the company did nothing to prevent aviation fuel from
leaking into a wetland area in Minnesota near the Mississippi River.
Koch will also contribute $2 million
to Minnesota's park system as part of the agreement. Prosecutors say
the company destroyed wetlands when it attempted to clean the areas
that had been polluted by the fuel.