The EPA has devised a system to write policy that favors the radical green NGOs. The EPA is able to, in effect, legislate. This is done by using the courts to issue Consent Decrees outlining policy “agreements. Once issued, the agreements set out in the Consent Decrees are very difficult to get changed.
Back in the 1960tys, activist groups began what is now called “reform litigation”. Initially these litigated cases were to pursue the litigant’s idea of needed prison reforms. But with time, reform litigation spread and it is getting major use by the EPA and radical greens to shape environmental policy. Here is how it works according to Bob Beuprez’s posting “How the EPA connives with Greens on Policy”:
How have these overtly political groups obtained such access to policy decisions that have the power to destroy industries and eliminate jobs? The answer lies in the “sue and settle” legal technique.
In essence, the groups file lawsuits against federal agencies, the courts order “consent decrees,” and the agencies settle the suits in closed-door meetings. According to one published report, the settlements are “pre-arranged” by the agencies and the environmental groups. After the settlements are finalized — without a public comment period — the agencies can move forward with the actions coveted by the environmental group and the uber-green Obama administration.
The result is a regulatory regime that penalizes industries and consumers, but hands economically damaging policy prescriptions to radical greens on a silver platter. Want to stop or delay energy development? File a suit alleging the EPA missed a reporting deadline. Want to prevent the construction of a coal-burning power plant? File a suit that results in laws being used in ways never considered by Congress.
Beuprez cites a recent agreement between the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity over endangered –species rules which calls for a review of the lesser prairie chicken status. At stake here is the owner’s ability to lease the drilling rights of their land to energy companies in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas. The Feds could rule that no drilling could take place if the lesser prairie chicken is deemed endangered. The current Administration really doesn’t want an expansion of oil and natural gas production. The dramatic and desirable growth of gas and oil production has come principally from privately owned property. The Administration has taken millions of acres of Federal lands out of the pool of potential resource locations. And where they are allowing drilling, the permitting time approaches a year unlike the permitting time on private property that takes about one to two weeks .
Back to the lesser prairie chicken. Beupres says this:
“The leases are in greater danger of extinction than the chickens. According to Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Kansas Republican, the bird is so populous that it is hunted in Kansas. In his view, the settlement “is not about preservation of a species — it’s about federal control of private landowners and limiting the ability to develop and grow rural America.”
In his posting Beuprez has other examples of damage resulting from several of the ongoing or recently settled law suits via consent decrees. WildEarth Guardians and the EPA agreed to “improved visibility in national parks and wilderness areas that is costing 8 states millions of dollars.
A “sue and settle” case involving the Navajo Generating Station resulting from a suit by nine environmental groups is expected to raise electricity costs for Arizonans by an estimated 20 percent a year. The EPA ignored other Federal Agencies over the impact of some 200 pesticides that the Western Growers Association says could result in severe economic harm and loss of jobs. The EPA’s closeness to the American Lung Association that has resulted in other policy agreements.
Beauprez sums up his posting thusly:
The agency’s stonewalling and the accusations of collusion raise serious questions about the EPA’s accountability and direction. Its apparent complicity in the “sue and settle” method of promulgating regulations reveals that the agency cannot be trusted to focus on its primary mission — “to protect human health and the environment based on the best available scientific information.” At the EPA, science has taken a back seat to a green ideology that puts politics before “we the people.”
The EPA is a law unto itself, it seems. Our legislators are sitting on the sidelines and letting all this happen probably because they are afraid to take a position on environmental policy as it might affect their reelection bid. They need to be told that not taking a position could result in their defeat at the polls as their constituents are becoming better informed.
To learn more about Consent Decrees, click here.