Washington, DC -- Congressman Duncan Hunter today introduced legislation to reform the federal Clean Water Act, limiting the amount of fees and penalties trial lawyers can seek in cases brought about through the citizen suit provision. While current law allows for citizen suits to compel compliance with the law, trial lawyers have exploited the provision for their own gain, trying to charge excessive legal fees for minor violations and even in instances where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already taken corrective action to resolve water issues.
“Citizen lawsuits were included in the Clean Water Act to empower individuals with the opportunity to help bring about accountability,” said Congressman Hunter. “Unfortunately, trial lawyers have turned this provision into a process for their own benefit and use the “sue and settle” practice to shakedown local water districts and us as their ratepayers. When simple problems arise and easy resolution solutions are available, or in cases where the EPA has already corrected a problem, trial lawyers still jump on with unnecessary legal action forcing water agencies to pass off millions of dollars in needless legal fees to their customers. We here in California are already dealing with increased water rates because of extreme environmental regulation and poor management by the State California. Forcing water customers to pay for unnecessary legal fees is simply too much.”
Congressman Hunter’s bill protects ratepayers by making a couple of simple technical changes to the Clean Water Act by limiting the amount of litigation charges that can be incurred, prohibiting legal action where the EPA has already taken action to rectify a problem and making regulations consistent with other areas of federal law. This measure is the fifth bill Congressman Hunter has introduced in the new 116th Congress and is part of his “First 100-Day Initiative,” a proactive legislative plan to bring about common sense reforms.