Environmental Regulation Qui Tam Cases
Although involving significant amounts of federal funds, environmental regulation is a major challenge for the government. One reason why the government faces this hardship is that many violations of environmental statutes and regulations are difficult or prohibitively expensive for the government to detect. The enforcement arms of federal and state environmental agencies are often underfunded and understaffed. Moreover, there are also political concerns about enforcement. False Claims Act liability in the environmental arena does not arise from a violation of an environmental regulation alone, but from certifications that require the government contactor to follow certain statutes, rules and regulations.
The cases in this area usually involve the liability of government contractors who fail to comply with or report misconduct in connection with environmental regulations. For example, qui tam whistleblowers claimed that a company failed to comply with environmental requirements as set out in its contracts with the Department of Defense requiring all work be performed in accordance with applicable federal, state, and local environmental laws and regulations. Specifically the company was required to follow regulations relating to the handling and disposal of hazardous material, such as metal sledges and spent solvents, and to comply with the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court held that the qui tam whistleblowers stated a claim under the False Claims Act since the qui tam whistleblowers alleged that the contracts expressly required compliance with environmental regulations and that company knowingly failed to comply with such regulations and falsely certified that it had complied with the contract requirements in order to induce payments under the contracts. The court held that since the False Claims Act is aimed at providing a remedy for all fraudulent attempts to cause the government to pay a claim, the allegations fell squarely within the statutory and contractual prohibitions.
For more information and case citations, please see Androphy “Federal False Claims Act and Qui Tam Litigation,” published by Law Journal Press (2010).
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You should be aware that qui tam claims are subject to a Statute of Limitations. The area of limitations periods is complex. There are also first to file rules, public disclosure bars, original source issues, and varying limitations in pursuing retaliation claims. If you wish to pursue your claims, you should promptly seek the opinion of an attorney regarding the merits of your qui tam claim and the applicable statute of limitations.