This Note will start by providing a short explanation of the origins of and congressional goals for the fee-shifting provision in the CWA [Clean Water Act]. It will then offer a brief summary of how Supreme Court precedent has both clarified and confused this issue. Then, it will dive into an examination of how the different circuits and their district courts have interpreted the CWA’s fee-shifting provision and how these interpretations have struggled with past Supreme Court decisions. Finally, this Note will explore the costs and benefits associated with these fee-shifting standards and offer a potential solution to this problem. Ultimately, this Note will argue that, in the absence of Supreme Court guidance, the circuits must adopt clearer, more uniform standards in order to fulfill congressional objectives, bolster the viability of CWA citizen-suits, and ensure that citizens do not pay the price for their public service.
This abstract has been adapted from the author's introduction.