Longer, Costlier Legal Battles Ahead as EPA Vows No Settling

Bloomberg BNA quotes William Yeatman on the impact of lawsuits pressed against the EPA for missing legal deadlines and the pressure these lawsuits have deterring further action by the EPA for meeting future ones.

EPA Administer Scott Pruitt’s refusal to settle environmental lawsuits means longer and more expensive legal battles, observers say.

Environmental groups often sue the Environmental Protection Agency when it misses a legal deadline to take action or review existing pollution standards, and cases tend to be open-and-shut against the EPA, they say. Rather than go through a lengthy court battle in these situations, settling saves time and resources.

Pruitt announced Oct. 16 that the EPA would no longer settle court cases brought by environmental groups seeking to force the agency to take overdue actions.

If the government pursues litigation to the end, it will also have to shell out for the prevailing party’s attorney fees, Justin Savage, a partner in Sidley Austin LLP’s Washington, D.C., office, told Bloomberg Environment. Savage was a senior trial attorney at the Justice Department between 2004 and 2013.

Given that litigation can be a more expensive option for the agency, Pruitt’s umbrage over the practice, known as sue-and-settle, may be less about settling lawsuits and more about avoiding environmental policies he doesn’t like, Coby Dolan, senior legislative counsel at Earthjustice, told Bloomberg Environment.

William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the free market advocacy group Competitive Enterprise Institute, told Bloomberg Environment that legal deadlines were the underlying problem behind sue-and-settle. Because the EPA missed so many deadlines, it has to funnel energy and resources into addressing its deadlines.

“The sue-and-settle is a means for environmental groups to dictate the agency’s priorities,” Yeatman said.

Read the full article at Bloomberg BNA.