Most environmental statutes allow citizens to sue companies for violating the statutes or their regulations. Most such citizen suits are not ï¬led by individuals, however, but by environmental organizations.
In this essay, Bruce L. Benson, DeVoe Moore Distinguished Research Professor at Florida State University, reveals that the rewards to ï¬ling citizen suits, as well as the ease of ï¬ling them, have distorted the incentives of some environmental groups. Such groups are putting substantial resources into litigation—even when the litigation involves only minor technical violations rather than environmental harm. The reason appears to be ï¬nancial reward.
Bruce Benson studied citizen suits in 2004 as a Julian Simon Fellow with PERC, the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana. PERC is a nonproï¬t institute dedicated to improving environmental quality through property rights and markets. This essay is part of the PERC Policy Series, which addresses timely topics involving markets and environmental issues. Essays by Julian Simon Fellows reï¬‚ect research in the tradition of the late Julian Simon, whose economic research challenged conventional wisdom.