House Bill 50, the Private Right of Action for Certain Statutes, is definitely getting a lot of attention at the Roundhouse, especially from those opposed. HB 50 would allow an affected individual or organization — in addition to the state or local or tribal government — to sue companies that have broken environmental laws. Given HB 50 is gaining traction, we wanted to clarify lingering misconceptions about this bill.
HB 50 amends five environmental protection laws — the Air Quality Control Act, Water Quality Act, Hazardous Waste Act, Solid Waste Act and Oil and Gas Act — to allow a private individual who has been harmed by a company’s violation of one of these laws to bring a lawsuit in state court to enforce the requirements of these existing environmental laws, regulations or permits. As a result, the court could order the polluter to stop polluting and impose civil penalties, but it is fundamental to note that the court could not order money damages for the person bringing the suit.