- Yemen defense ministry rocked by suicide bomber, gunfire
- Hack attack: 2 million Facebook, Twitter passwords stolen
- Mystery deepens over radioactive cobalt-60 stolen in Mexico
- No mas: Principal bans Spanish language in intercom announcement
- Hacking software could put ‘zombie drone army’ in user’s hands
- Support for stricter gun laws drops: poll
- 10 whales dead, 41 others stranded in Everglades
- John Boehner faces bipartisan pressure to allow gay-rights vote
- Martin Bashir resigns from MSNBC over ‘ill-judged’ comments about Sarah Palin
- Rep. Duncan Hunter: While Obama prays for Iranian change, U.S. should ready its nukes
Two senators riled by EPA payouts in lawsuits
Business, industry cases half of load
A new government watchdog report says environmental lawyers have collected millions of dollars in lawyers’ fees from taxpayers by suing and winning cases against the Environmental Protection Agency.
But the report, by the Government Accountability Office, also shows that business and industry lawsuits account for nearly half of EPA’s legal workload, which is far more than the 30 percent of cases from environmental and citizens groups.
And the two biggest years for lawsuits over the past decade and a half came in 1997 and 2010, when a Democratic administration ran the agency and businesses clashed with it. Environmental groups, meanwhile, did most of their suing during President George W. Bush’s time in office.
All told, the Justice Department spent $43 million from 1995 to 2010 to defend itself against lawsuits, and spent millions more to pay attorney fees - averaging nearly $1.7 million a year from 2006 to 2010.
The fee payments are allowed by law, and are designed to compensate citizens who sue and beat the government. GAO said payments were made in about 11 percent of cases, and ranged from as little as $145 up to $720,000.
“The GAO report shows that taxpayers have been on the hook for years while ‘big green’ trial lawyers have raked in millions of dollars suing the government,” said Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican who requested the report along with Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican “Even worse, because of sloppy recordkeeping by the EPA and other agencies and a lack of cooperation by the Justice Department, we’re not even sure how bad the problem really is. This is unacceptable and I’m going to continue working to demand greater transparency.”
Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm that specializes in environmental cases, received more than $4.6 million in attorney fees during the period GAO examined - 32 percent of the total. The Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council accounted for another 9 percent.
But Patti Goldman, vice president for litigation at Earthjustice, said their lawsuits force the government to follow its own laws, and she said that’s saved thousands of lives through cleaner water and air.
She said the real driver of EPA’s legal caseload is businesses.
“Industry sues EPA far more than environmental groups,” she said. “What we have going on here is there’s really an industry attack on EPA, and politicians like Sens. Inhofe and Vitter are helping lead the charge politically on the Hill.”
GAO said there was no discernible pattern for the lawsuits, but that those they interviewed for their investigation said a change in administration or the release of an important new regulation could spur challenges.
And one environmental organization told GAO that plaintiffs are increasingly turning to lawsuits as a way to test whether laws should be applied to new situations that were not envisioned when the legislation passed Congress, in some cases decades ago.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
- Medal of Honor case goes to third defense secretary; Rep. Duncan Hunter says system broken
- John Boehner says blame for slow Congress lies with Democrats
- Hola: Boehner prepares to push amnesty bill through House
- Adios muchacho: Christie threatens veto of NJ's Dream Act
- Issa: FBI impeding inquiry into IRS targeting of conservative groups
Latest Blog Entries
- Inside China: Nuclear submarines capable of widespread attack on U.S.
- Apple wins facial recognition patent for iPhone 6
- 'Harry Potter' and 'Hunger Games' fans debate over political messages in films
- Democratic infighting erupts with squabble over entitlements
- Young and healthy millennials create risky imbalance by shunning Obamacare
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
- Allen West warns Obamas backdoor gun control is moving forward
- Kill team: Obama war chiefs widen drone death zones
- Susan Rice slams Russia, China on human rights
- U.S. debt jumps a record $328 billion tops $17 trillion for first time
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
A libertarian look at breaking news and political trends by author Tom Mullen.
A stat-head’s outlook, direct from his worn in couch cushion.
Playing Through covers the world of PGA golf, as well as tips your the average golfer to play better.