No Accounting for Accountability? A Comment on Environmental Citizen Suits and the Inequities of Races to the Top
In Environmental Citizen Suits and the Inequities of Races to the Top, David E. Adelman and Jori Reilly-Diakun provide a cogent empirical analysis of citizen suits aimed at assessing whether these statutory causes of action are meeting the intent of the U.S. Congress to serve as a layer of protection against lax federal or state enforcement of environmental laws. The authors contend that the data does not bear out the concern that citizen suits allow private actors to augment government enforcement schemes and priorities in a manner that lacks accountability, including to local community members that are most directly affected by how environmental laws are enforced, and “crunched” the available data, i.e., categorized, sorted, and made certain assumptions about the data—as is necessary in any empirical study—to arrive at these conclusions. This Comment offers practitioner observations on how citizen suits may resist some of this sorting and categorization, and what the data says or doesn’t say about accountability to affected regulated and local communities.