We live in an era of unprecedented environmental concerns. Climate change, pollution, resource depletion, and loss of biodiversity threaten our planet and life as we know it. Combating these issues and protecting the environment for future generations requires a collective effort on our part.
While many environmental whistleblowers report law-breaking simply because they believe it’s the right thing to do, financial incentives provide additional motivation for blowing the whistle.
Whistleblowers who expose environmental law violations play an important role in safeguarding life systems.
Unfortunately, environmental whistleblower law is piecemeal, with inconsistent incentives and protections. While most laws have anti-retaliation provisions, many do not provide financial awards. In addition, cozy relationships between some enforcement agencies and industries can undermine whistleblowers’ efforts to ensure environmental regulation compliance.
If you have knowledge of environmental fraud and are interested in blowing the whistle, you’d be wise to seek legal counsel. Our attorneys can help make sure that those who break environmental laws are duly punished and that whistleblowers are protected and awarded.
Examples of Environmental Whistleblower Claims
Environmental whistleblower law is dispersed across numerous individual statutes. Depending on the type of claim, different filing procedures, as well as whistleblower incentives and protections, apply.
A few examples of environmental whistleblower claims are outlined below. For detailed information about a particular case, it is recommended that you speak with our lawyers.
- The Clean Water Act (CWA), Clean Air Act (CAA), and other major federal environmental statutes contain a citizen suit provision that allows a private citizen to sue an environmental law breaker in federal court. For example, if a company is discharging excessive amounts of hazardous pollutants into water or air, a person with knowledge of the violation can file a lawsuit against the violator. Some restrictions apply, however. For example, statutes that include the CWA require the plaintiff to be personally adversely affected by the alleged violation. A citizen plaintiff may also have to provide notice to the government before filing suit. Citizen suit plaintiffs typically are not (but may be) eligible for financial awards. The CAA, for instance, allows whistleblower awards up to $10,000.
- In addition to filing a citizen suit provision under various federal environmental statutes, persons may report an environmental violation to the EPA. The information provided could lead to an award.
- The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) allows whistleblowers to provide information to the government about marine pollution violations and receive a monetary award when that information leads to conviction of the polluter.
- The Endangered Species Act (ESA) holds that any person who provides information about a violation under the Act that leads to an arrest, criminal conviction, or civic penalty is eligible for an award. Other wildlife protection laws (including the Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act) have similar provisions.
Environmental Whistleblower Protections
Whistleblower laws are more consistent in the whistleblower protections they provide. Seven major federal environmental laws have provisions protecting whistleblowers from employer retaliation, including being fired, suspended, or demoted for engaging in whistleblower activities. Those laws are:
- Safe Water Drinking Act
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act
- Toxic Substances Control Act
- Solid Waste Control Act
- Clean Air Act
- Energy Reorganization Act
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.
Under these laws, workers who blow the whistle on environmental fraud are protected from retaliatory actions by their employer. Workers who are retaliated against for whistleblowing may file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days. Potential remedies include reinstatement, back pay with interest, compensatory damages, and attorney fees.
Speak with an Attorney
Our lawyers recognize that environmental whistleblowers provide a valuable public service and deserve to be rewarded and protected. If you have information about environmental fraud, we’ll identify the laws that have been broken, help you file a claim, protect you from retaliation, and make sure you receive the maximum award you’re entitled to.
To learn more, contact our whistleblower attorneys for a free case review.