Impatient with federal government inaction to stop polluters from breaking the law on the amount of emissions they continue to spew into the atmosphere, environmental groups are taking litigation directly to the polluters.
A federal judge in Waco, Texas will begin a case on Monday brought by the Sierra Club against Luminant Generation Company
LGC is the largest producer of electricity and it has been polluting the air in East Texas unchecked by federal or state action for years.
According to a New York Times report the case is one of three high-profile lawsuits on the docket for this year, because environmental organizations have grown tired of waiting for corrective action to be made by government officials.
The “citizen suits” by green groups are likely to increase as the current stalemate in Congress continues to hinder climate change regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency is constantly imperiled by Republicans.
“Historically, there has been an uptick in citizen suit filings when there is something of a slowdown in enforcement,” said Matthew Morrison, an environmental lawyer based in Washington, and a former counsel for the EPA. If the agency is not aggressive enough on its own, Mr. Morrison said, “citizen suits may happen more often.”
Environment Texas sued ExxonMobil after “years and years” of trying to get the state regulatory agency Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to force clean up action.
“Going through the courts is our best option. It’s kind of our last option,” Mr. Metzger said.
The ExxonMobil case is still in progress.
Too often big polluters have gotten away with using excuses for excessive emissions during maintenance and startup or unscheduled shutdown events.
“It’s now become kind of an enforcement priority for the agency to look at cases where there is noncompliance and there may not be an exception that protects them,” said Mathew Morrison, a former EPA attorney. “At some point, the agency will say, ‘you know what, buddy? That’s not a malfunction. If you’re having them that frequently it’s probably unfair for you to keep calling them that, and we’re going to come after you.’ ”
Meanwhile in related news posted by MSN News, as President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry ratchet up the rhetoric on combating climate change, the US Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday on a portion of the EPA plan to reduce emissions that would require new or expanding industrial plants to evaluate ways to offset the pollution generated.
The case will take up to 90 days, which is an expansion for the routine 60 days.
Republicans have characterized Obama’s use of executive authority to give EPA more power to restrict greenhouse gas pollution, as a “power grab of historic proportions”.
However, in 2012, a three-panel judgment from the US Court of Appeals in DC ruled the EPA was “unambiguously correct” in “using existing federal law to address global warming.”
And using existing federal law like the Clean Air Act has nothing to do with Obama's executive pen.