Unnatural Bounty: Distorting the Incentives of Major Environmental Groups


Most environmental statutes allow citizens to sue companies for violating the statutes or their regulations. Most such citizen suits are not filed 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 filing citizen suits, as well as the ease of filing 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 financial reward.

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