William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review


This Note argues that democratizing the disaster relief process through enabling citizen suits against FEMA to timely deliver housing relief assistance is one potential solution to the immense problem at hand. This Note provides an overview of FEMA’s obligations to survivors of natural disasters under both federal law and evolving interpretations of binding international law. This Note asserts that FEMA’s repeated failure to deliver necessary disaster relief aid to these survivors constitutes violations of these obligations. This Note will then assert that the issue underlying these failures (i.e., flawed administrative and bureaucratic processes) is analogous to similar failures by environmental agencies. This Note will then propose that a citizen suit provision, similar to those under federal environmental law that have compelled agency action in the past, should be adopted to FEMA’s enabling legislation to remedy failures to meet their obligations. Finally, this Note will examine the application of citizen suits since their introduction to understand how such a provision may operate under FEMA’s enabling legislation, and to identify structural challenges faced by citizen suits that can be learned from to best ensure successful implementation moving forward.

This abstract has been taken from the author's introduction.