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Standing to Sue – Jurisdiction

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Prairie Rivers Network v. Dynegy Midwest Generation, LLC,

Case No.: 18-3644

Officials: FLAUM, ROVNER, and BRENNAN, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Standing to Sue – Jurisdiction

Prairie Rivers Network is an Illinois non-profit organization that advocates for clean water and healthy rivers. Under the Clean Water Act’s citizen-suit provision, PRN sued Dynegy Midwest Generation, LLC, alleging that Dynegy illegally discharged coal ash pollutants into groundwater, which in turn entered the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River. The district court held that the Clean Water Act did not cover these groundwater discharges, so it dismissed PRN’s suit for lack of jurisdiction. We then stayed PRN’s appeal pending the Supreme Court’s decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, 140 S. Ct. 1462 (2020). In that case, the Court established a multi-factor test to determine whether groundwater discharges fall under the Clean Water Act’s ambit. Id. at 1476–77.

We need not assess County of Maui’s reach, however, because PRN lacks standing. PRN has more than 1000 members yet fails to show that at least one of those individual members has standing. Associational standing, which PRN asserts, requires more specificity. Without at least one individual member who can sue in their own right, PRN cannot sue on their behalf. Because PRN cannot cure that defect via declarations on appeal, we affirm the district court’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction.


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Derek A Hawkins is Corporate Counsel, at Salesforce.

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