The Washington Examiner calls our attention to the EPA’s “sue and settle” policy which ultimately changes and adds all sorts of regulations without any input from the public or Congress. The way it works is, environmental groups sue the EPA. Then they meet behind closed doors to negotiate settlements that include all sorts of new regulations as well as their legal fees, and a judge signs off on it. Of course, there is no outrage by the media.
All of these deals are unintended consequences of the “sue and settle” process included in major environmental laws adopted since 1970. Here’s how the process works: First, the private environmental group sues the EPA in federal court seeking to force it to issue new regulations by a date certain. Then agency and group officials meet behind closed doors to hammer out a deal. Typically in the deal, the government agrees to do whatever the activists want. The last step occurs when the judge issues a consent decree that makes the deal the law of the land. No messy congressional hearings. No public comment period. No opportunity for anybody outside the privileged few to know how government regulatory policy is being shaped until it’s too late.
That’s how sue and settle works, so it’s understandable that, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce notes in a comprehensive new report on the process, “several environmental advocacy groups have made the Sue and Settle process a significant part of their legal strategy.” It’s also a significant funding tool for them because in most of the cases (65 percent, or 49 of the 71 cases involving the EPA) the suing group’s legal fees are paid by taxpayers. (Incredibly, the Government Accountability Office found two years ago that it could not determine how much the government spent on such legal fees).
There are multiple reasons to repeal sue and settle but the two most important are its inherently anti-democratic character and the mockery it makes of transparency and accountability in government. (Read More)