Not a day goes by that some gang of professional green extremists isn’t suing someone somewhere to stop something. But what makes the courtroom-clogging obstructionism even more maddening is that these groups are effectively being subsidized to sue, thanks to a little-known (but widely misused) law that allows them to recoup legal costs in certain cases — a problem AFP-Co details in its recent MonkeyWrenching the Courts report.
Some members of Congress are now taking action to help curb this form of taxpayer-subsidized lawsuit abuse, but the reform effort faces an uncertain future due to the lethargy and liberalism of our do-nothing U.S. Senate, where good ideas go to die. Read more about it in this Colorado Public Advocate story, which mentions the report. Thanks, too, to The Colorado Observer for carrying the story. Here’s an excerpt, which we hope isn’t long enough to generate complaints about copywrite infringement.
“A bid in Congress to rein in the cost of proliferating lawsuits by environmental groups against public agencies in Colorado and across the West likely will pass the GOP-led U.S. House but is being stymied in the Democratic-majority Senate, say friends and foes of the legislation.
Dubbed the Government Litigation Savings Act, H.R. 1996 plugs what backers say is a loophole in an obscure federal law that lets environmental groups get reimbursed millions of dollars a year in legal fees. The effort, which was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in November, was introduced in the House last year by U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and co-sponsored by Colorado Republican U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton.
Critics of those groups charge the easy reimbursements are a standing invitation to more lawsuits. Opponents of the legislation, however, argue that the bill’s proposed tweaks to the decades-old Equal Access to Justice Act could limit citizen access to the courts to enforce federal environmental regulations.
The issue has come to light again with the recent release of a report sharply critical of Santa Fe, N.M.-based WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group accused in the report of waging a war of “saturation litigation” on a wide range of federal, state and local agencies in Colorado and elsewhere. Among the group’s Colorado targets are entities as small as the state-chartered Arkansas River Power Authority, municipally owned Lamar Light and Power and the tiny mountain town of Ward. WildEarth is rapped in the report for filing some 145 lawsuits since 2008—roughly one every week and a half—and tapping public dollars to help pay the legal bills under the Equal Access to Justice Act.
The report, “Monkey-Wrenching the Courts,” was released recently as part of a new initiative on environmental issues by the Colorado arm of the advocacy group Americans for Prosperity.”