Strategy: Citizen Lawsuits

From the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, Section 505 (a):

“…any citizen may commence a civil action on his own behalf against any person … who is alleged to be in violation of (A) an effluent standard or limitation… or (B) an order issued by the Administrator or a State with respect to such a standard or limitation…”

Upper Missouri Waterkeeper enforces the Clean Water Act via citizen action lawsuits on behalf of our members.  Our staff review NPDES permits and activities throughout the 25,000 square miles of the Basin and, when necessary to protect water quality or community health, we bring citizen lawsuits against the most egregious violators.

Strong environmental laws are a good thing for Montana’s communities, businesses, and our waterways.  Your ability to swim in the river without toxic algae blooms, your ability to catch wild, healthy, native fish, and your ability to drink clean, cold water from your tap – we take these things fore granted, but they are the result of strong environmental laws protecting our way of life.  So too does Montana’s largest economic driver – the outdoors – stand on the foundation of healthy rivers, clean water, and a vibrant unpolluted landscape.

Without enforcement actions bad actors and polluters are free to harm our rivers, creeks, and fisheries without consequences, not only directly harming water quality and nature, but also harming the rights we as Montana citizens have to a clean and healthful environment.  By the same token Waterkeeper uses the law to challenge bad or illegal decisionmaking by Montana’s environmental agencies that threatens to undermine critical clean water protections for our families, rivers, and communities.  We watchdog state and local decisions to ensure science – not politics or money – directs local actions.

We also engage policy-makers and state agencies and work to improve state-based pollution plans and water resources controls through the administrative process.   Often the reality is that the state, and local jurisdictions, not the federal government, are better equipped to address local pollution concerns.  While we do not lobby at Montana’s Legislature, we do track bad bills that would undermine critical clean water protections and often share memorandums and information with legislators to help them remember our rivers in every decision they make.