by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt announced today the end of the pernicious “sue and settle” schemes. As Locker Room readers are aware, that’s the scheme whereby the federal government ends up sending millions of dollars to radical environmentalist outfits while they foist costly rules on us without going through the rulemaking process:
Here’s how the scheme works: Unwilling or unable to work through Congress or the conventional regulatory process to pass new environmental laws, a radical environmentalist group (like, say, Earthjustice, the former employer of a past head of ENRD) files a lawsuit seeking a court order enforcing an entirely new environmental standard. The DOJ, rather than vigorously defending existing law, chooses to surrender and then cooperates with the outside activist group in crafting an agreed settlement that binds the government to new environmental standards.
In at least 60 cases between 2009 and 2012, the DOJ, in cooperation with the EPA, chose not to defend against environmentalists’ claims, agreeing instead to settle the lawsuits by signing “consent decrees” that essentially function as new environmental regulations.
This “sue and settle” practice resulted, Fund and von Spakovsky report, in “more than 100 new federal rules, many of which are major rules with estimated compliance costs of more than $100 million annually.” And, because the DOJ and the EPA “lost” the cases (by refusing to mount a defense against the lawsuits), the radical environmental group is entitled to a substantial attorneys’-fee award.
Needless to say, this is a welcome and long-overdue reform.