Public Interest Green Fund

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One of Coastkeeper’s five program pillars is enforcement- specifically to enforce compliance with state clean water laws and the Federal Clean Water Act. Although our preferred course of action is to collaborate with industries to reduce sources of pollution, Coastkeeper will resort to litigation if necessary.  The goal of litigation is to force certain industries that have not followed clean water laws to come into compliance.

What is the Green Fund?

The Green Fund seeks to level the playing field by providing funds to NGOs that would not otherwise be able to obtain professional services to protect recognized ecological resources. The goal of these funds is not to simply stop growth or development projects, but to preserve a specific, recognized ecological resource when threatened. Grants from this fund are being made available to law schools and non-profits for the following purposes:

  • Law schools who wish to provide stipends to support law school students who have completed one year of schooling and intend to work between ten and fifteen hours per week providing legal research and advocacy for the benefit of the local environment.
  • To help non-profits offset the cost of employing expert consultants necessary to either help designate natural areas as deserving of protection or to preserve and protect a known designated natural resource.
  • To fund restoration and “on-the-ground” infrastructure projects which are related to outdoor natural science education for students K-12.

In 2011, the State Water Resources Control Board’s Office of Enforcement published the first statewide report on third party enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The Citizen Suit Enforcement Under The Federal Clean Water Act report analyzed citizen suit actions under the Federal Clean Water Act from March 2009 through June 2010.  The report prominently referenced Coastkeeper’s numerous enforcement actions and included some of our recent Consent Decrees as examples of citizen suit resolutions to violations of the Clean Water Act. The report concluded by stating that “citizen suit enforcement in California fulfills the role contemplated in the Clean Water Act” and “for the most part,…address violations that the Water Boards do not have the resources to pursue with their own staff.”

In each case we have settled, there has been a “Supplemental Environmental Project” (SEP).  A SEP is a voluntary, environmentally beneficial project undertaken at the election of a defendant that is related to the violation in exchange for a reduced financial penalty.  SEPs must satisfy certain legal requirements, such as an underlying relationship between the violation and the environmental benefits derived from the SEP.  Coastkeeper has never accepted any such SEP funds from any lawsuit for its own benefit.  Rather, Coastkeeper established the Orange County/Inland Empire Green Fund (Green Fund) in order to more efficiently distribute SEP money. Since its inception in 2009, Coastkeeper has been able to direct over $250,000 to the Green Fund.

How it Works

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Administered through the Orange County Community Foundation, this fund is exclusively supported by the settlements of Coastkeeper’s litigation.  Coastkeeper has recruited a prestigious advisory board, consisting of individuals closely involved with public interest litigation. The Green Fund Advisory Board will make funding decisions to distribute funds to non-profit organizations who apply for funding.

Coastkeeper is not involved in determining any Green Fund awards.  The independent advisory board will make the awards to NGOs.  Funds are allocated only to NGOs that are based in Orange County or the Inland Empire.  The threatened ecological resource must also be located within the same boundaries. Coastkeeper is excited to support critical work in our watersheds through this initiative.

Accomplishments 

Green Fund has provided funding for critical project to protect and improve our environment and the quality of life in local communities. Projects that have been made possible by this fund include:

  • The creation of wetlands that provide habitat for wildlife and help improve water quality.
  • A program to mentor new legal experts developing effective environmental public policy and planning initiatives.
  • Efforts to preserve coastal bluffs.
  • Environmental education programs to mentor future scientists and environmental advocates.
  • Studies to monitor water quality in local streams and rivers.