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An Analysis of the Supreme Court’s Resolution of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act Citizen Suit Debate

By Krista Green


The Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) mandates that companies using and storing certain hazardous chemicals file reports with specified local and state groups, disclosing the quantity, type, and location of those chemicals. Those groups utilize the reports to draft an emergency plan to deal with hazardous chemical releases. EPCRA permits citizens to sue the owners or operators of facilities which fail to file the requisite reports. In interpreting the citizen suit provision, the courts have struggled with whether to permit suits to continue if the alleged violator has cured the violation, by filing the reports, prior to the commencement of the suit. The United States Supreme Court recently resolved a split among the circuit courts of appeals on the issue of historical violations in EPCRA citizen suits, holding that plaintiffs alleging only historical violations under EPCRA lacked standing to sue. This Comment argues that the Supreme Court\u27s disposal of the historical violation issue through standing doctrine is potentially far-reaching in consequence and therefore misguided. Nonetheless, due to the policies underlying EPCRA and its current construction, this Comment agrees with the result, if not the rationale, of the Court, and asserts that citizens should not be permitted to sue under EPCRA if they allege only historical violations

Topics: Environmental Law
Publisher: Digital Commons @ Boston College Law School
Year: 1999
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