Exposing Pollution

How can community members expose and remedy ongoing pollution from an existing petrochemical facility?

If a facility in a community is emitting unacceptable levels of pollution, the community can seek to halt harmful practices and hold governments and companies accountable to ensure the facility is complying with all relevant regulations. Here are a few strategies to do so effectively.

Report an Environmental Violation

Has the community witnessed a harmful or concerning practice that may constitute a violation of an environmental law or regulation, such as releases, dumping, spills, spraying, filling, or concealing emissions? Report it via the EPA’s online tool for submitting information regarding violations to EPA enforcement personnel or other appropriate regulatory authorities.

If there is an environmental event that may pose an immediate threat to human health or the environment, call 911, then report it to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

File a Citizen Enforcement Suit

There are a few federal environmental laws in the United States that allow members of the public to bring lawsuits in federal court against corporations that violate federal environmental laws and regulations, or against government actors that fail to perform a non-discretionary duty. These laws include the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Members of the public could also seek an injunction to prevent imminent or substantial harm.

For more information on filing a citizen enforcement suit, contact a local legal clinic (like Tulane Environmental Law Clinic) or legal counsel. Environmental NGOs with extensive experience litigating citizen enforcement suits may also be able to provide tips, advice, or examples from past cases.

Raise Public Awareness

Want to reach a large audience? Writing a letter to the editor in a local paper can be a good way to spread the word to the community and appeal to elected officials who monitor the letters. For guidance on writing a letter to the editor, check out the ACLU’s tip sheet and check the local paper’s rules on submissions.

  • Here and here are examples of letters to the editor opposing petrochemical facilities in St. James Parish, Louisiana.

Contact Elected Officials

Calling or sending a letter to local, state, and federal elected officials are good options for reaching decision makers directly to voice concerns about the impacts of petrochemical facilities in a community. To find information about elected officials, visit How to Contact Your Elected Officials.

Contact Legal Counsel

For more information or legal advice, reach out to one of many attorneys and legal clinics fighting to stop harmful petrochemical projects across the country, including, but not limited to: