Tuesday, May 21, 2013

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Accuses Environmental Groups of Abusing Regulatory Process

Sue and Settle: Regulating Behind Closed Doors

What Is Sue and Settle?

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sue and settle occurs when an agency intentionally relinquishes its statutory discretion by accepting lawsuits from outside groups that effectively dictate the priorities and duties of the agency through legally binding, court-approved settlements negotiated behind closed doors—with no participation by other affected parties or the public.
The Chamber says that as a result of the sue and settle process, the agency intentionally transforms itself from an independent actor that has discretion to perform its duties in a manner best serving the public interest into an actor subservient to the binding terms of settlement agreements, which includes using congressionally appropriated funds to achieve the demands of specific outside groups. The Chamber believes this process also allows agencies to avoid the normal protections built into the rulemaking process—review by the Office of Management and Budget and the public, and compliance with executive orders—at the critical moment when the agency’s new obligation is created.

What Is the Sue and Settle Process?

  1. Environmental advocacy group sues federal agency to issue regulations by a specific deadline.
  2. Environmental advocacy group and federal agency work out an agreement.*
    *Conducted behind closed doors.
  3. Draft consent decree or settlement agreement is lodged with the court.
  4. Under some laws the federal agency invites and receives public comments on the decree or agreement.*
    *Too little, too late: the damage has been done.
  5. Court finalizes the decree or agreement.*
    *It generally does not matter to courts if the decree or agreement is not required or authorized by statute.

Which Advocacy Groups Use the Sue and Settle Process the Most?

Which Courts Handle the Most Sue and Settle Cases?

Comparing the Use of Sue and Settle Over the Past 15 Years

What are the Economic Implications of our Findings?

(U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

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