SW Legal Educational Publishing

No Evidence of Environmental Harm, No Standing to Sue Alleged Water Polluter
Description Appeals court upheld dismissal of suit against a metal smelter that was accused by environmental groups of dumping too much pollution into a lake. Since the group presented no scientific evidence of harm, in fact it failed to show any injury to any members of the group, it did not have standing to bring the suit.
Topic Environmental Law
Key Words Standing; Injury
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Gaston operates a metal smelter located on a lake. The metal smelter functions under a water pollution permit that details what level of pollutants are allowed to be emitted from the smelter into the lake. Two environmental groups sued Gaston on behalf of their members who live downstream of the lake, claiming that Gaston was violating its discharge permit and was subjecting downstream water users to dangerous chemical exposure. District court dismissed the suit, finding that the groups failed to establish standing because there was no evidence of injury to any party. Plaintiffs appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Under the law, an association "may have standing to sue in federal court based either on an injury to the organization or its own rights, or as the representative of its members who have been harmed." As the Supreme Court has held, for there to be injury in fact, there must be "an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical." Here, "concerns were based on mere speculation as to the presence of pollution without any evidence to support their fears or establish the presence of pollutants in the allegedly affected waters."
Citation Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Gaston Copper Recycling, 179 F.3d 107 (4th Cir., 1999)

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