Enviro lawsuits funded by taxpayers

Winningreen Issue Alert                                                      
Taxpayers foot the bill for enviro groups to sue the government

By Gretchen Randall

Date: May 14, 2012
The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) became law in 1980 under President Carter.  Its original purpose was to help the average citizen who wanted to fight big government by having the federal government pay the citizen’s attorney fees and costs if the court ruled the government was at fault. Unfortunately, the law also applied to non-profit organizations known as 501(c)(3) groups including environmental groups who have taken advantage of this law and cost taxpayers millions.

While the original law required annual reports to Congress on the number and amounts of the awards, this requirement was repealed in 1995 with no reporting taking place since then. Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was requested by Republicans to find any current information on how much the U.S. treasury is spending in attorney fees for lawsuits against the Department of the Interior and the Agriculture Department.

The GAO found that $44.4 million was paid for attorney fees by these two agencies alone from March 2001 through September 30, 2010 with half of the costs due to endangered species litigation. But only 10 of the 75 departments of these two agencies had tracked such data.  Another $14.2 million for attorney fees for EPA environmental litigation cases was paid from fiscal years 2003 through 2010.

Now Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) have introduced the Government Litigation Savings Act (S1061, H.R.1996) in hopes of reforming the Equal Access to Justice Act.  The bills would cap legal fees at $200 per hour, limit repetitive lawsuits and require future and past accounting of legal fees paid under the EAJA.

Comment: Only in America would we allow environmental groups to sue the federal government to get agencies to do their bidding and then stick taxpayers with the legal bill.

Comment: Anyone who thinks this legislation can get through a Harry Reid-controlled Senate is probably also an endangered species.

Background and links: Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/05/08/environmental-groups-paid-millions-by-federal-agencies-sue-studies-show/?test=latestnews#ixzz1umRStyrz           Read the GAO report here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/590084.pdf

Contact: Gretchen Randall
Winningreen LLC
Chicago, IL
Phone: 773-857-5086
e-mail: grandall@winningreen.com