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EPA to End Corrupt, Costly Sue-and-Settle Practice

Monday October 30th, 2017   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 5:49am PDT   •  

40579635 - close-up of a bureaucrat handing money to a political activist in front of justice scale During the last two presidential administrations, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bureaucrats seeking to increase their regulatory power would often engage in secret collusion with political activists to either deliberately throw court cases where the EPA was being sued or to settle them without contest to achieve that end. Michael Bastasch of the Daily Caller News Foundation reports on the estimated cost to the U.S. economy stemming from that unusual form of bureaucratic corruption:

The right-leaning American Action Forum found 23 regulations stemming from “sure and settle” lawsuits “resulted in a total cost burden of $67.9 billion, with $26.5 billion in annual costs.”

AAF looked at 23 major regulations imposed by EPA from 2005 to 2016, and found they resulted in hefty economic price tags. Settlements reached during the Bush and Obama administrations resulted in some of the costliest rules on the books.

“With billions of dollars in economic costs at stake, it makes sense to more thoroughly scrutinize sue and settle rules to ensure they meet the basic rigors of the Administrative Procedure Act and sound cost-benefit principles,” AAF’s Dan Bosch wrote in a new report.

Earlier this month, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt officially put an end to this secretive, backdoor process for increasing the regulatory power of the EPA without going through the legitimate regulatory process established by the U.S. Congress. Bloomberg‘s Jennifer Dloughy has the story.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he is ending a “sue-and-settle” practice that has resulted in closed-door agreements committing the agency to regulating greenhouse gas emissions or mercury pollution from power plants.

“It’s very important that we do not engage in rulemaking through litigation,” Pruitt told reporters at a briefing Monday. “As of today, with this directive and the memorandum, we’re no longer going to be involved in that practice.”

Pruitt vowed to avoid “regulation through litigation” in an address to EPA employees in February and later instructed agency staff to limit the practice. Separately, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has barred federal attorneys from negotiating settlements that result in payments from companies to third-party organizations, such as environmental groups.

But Pruitt’s new directive makes it formal. Under the policy, the agency will publicize petitions targeting the EPA, include states and regulated entities in settlements that affect them and publish proposed agreements so that the public has 30 days to comment. The EPA also won’t agree to issue rules quickly through the settlement process, Pruitt said. Under the new policy, the agency will also exclude paying attorney fees.

No matter what side of the political aisle you might be, this reform represents a step forward in achieving greater transparency and integrity in how the U.S. government’s regulations on Americans are established.

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October 2017