Expect Increased State, Local and Citizen Group Enforcement with a Trump/Pruitt EPA

This is the fourth in a series of Alerts regarding the expected impacts of a Trump/Pruitt EPA on enforcement trends.

Environmental Groups Are Increasing in Membership and Donations

Environmental groups are receiving record numbers of new members and donations in the wake of Trump’s victory.  Some are specifically referencing his choice for EPA Administrator on their websites and in emails to their members.

More Citizen Suits

These organizations will want to show their membership how they are using these increased donations.  One way will be through increased litigation by these entities, suits aimed at strengthening regulations or bringing enforcement actions.

All of the major federal environmental regulatory programs, and many state programs, allow citizens to bring enforcement actions for ongoing violations, if the federal or state governments have not filed suit.  Many of these organizations have a long history of bringing “citizen suit” enforcement actions against corporations; seeking penalties, injunctions, and fees for the organization’s lawyers.

By the end of 2017, I expect some of these groups to boast of an increased number of “citizen suit” enforcement actions and other litigation.

State and Local Enforcement

For the major environmental programs, states have the power to bring enforcement for permit or regulatory violations, without permission from the federal government, even for state programs that have received delegation of federal permitting authority.  Moreover, an increasing number of states also give local governments, such as counties and cities, the power to bring enforcement actions for environmental violations.

Texas, for example, allows counties and cities to bring civil enforcement actions.  Texas counties can also bring criminal charges against companies and individuals.

While Texas voted for Trump and is considered a very “red” state, its major cities and most populous counties are not necessarily so.  The district and county attorneys in Harris County (Houston) are all Democrats, as is Houston’s mayor.

Enforcement Actions to Demonstrate Environmental Commitment

State and local governments with strong “blue” constituencies will try to show how they are compensating for what they will portray as a Trump/Pruitt EPA lacking in commitment to environmental goals.  One way to do so will be to increase the number and visibility of environmental enforcement actions brought by these state and local governments.

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