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Collins Statement on EPA Move to Reverse Sue-and-Settle Policy

Oct 16, 2017
Statement

WASHINGTON—Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) released the following statement in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to end the so-called sue-and-settle practices favored by the Obama Administration:

“No government agency should collude with special interest groups to redefine its priorities through covert consent decrees. The EPA’s decision to crack down on this practice will give Americans back their right to know about and respond to federal rulemaking, and I applaud Secretary Pruitt for taking this step today.

“I will continue working to snuff out back-room litigation that unfairly impacts our citizens. The EPA’s directive reflects the principles outlined in the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, which would ensure that the sue-and-settle mischief we witnessed during the last administration would never again take hold in a federal agency.”

Background:

This January, Rep. Doug Collins (R- Ga.) introduced H.R. 469, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, in the House, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced its companion, S. 119. The Sunshine Act inhibits the ability of federal agencies to participate in back-door sue-and-settle arrangements with special interest groups, which circumvent established regulatory processes.

Federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have increasingly turned to consent decrees as a means of realigning regulatory priorities and establishing new rules that affect American workers and families. Agencies can carry out sue-and-settle litigation without public notice or comment, and over 100 such regulations were handed down during the previous administration, at an estimated annual cost of more than $100 billion.

Specifically, the Sunshine Act checks federal runs around the regulatory process by:

  • Providing for greater transparency by requiring agencies to publicly post and report to Congress information on sue-and-settle complaints, consent decrees and settlement agreements;
  • Prohibiting the same-day filing of complaints and pre-negotiated consent decrees and settlement agreements in cases seeking to compel agency action;
  • Requiring that consent decrees and settlement agreements be filed only after interested parties have had the opportunity to intervene in the litigation and join settlement negotiations, and only after any proposed consent decree or settlement has been published for at least 60 days to provide for notice and comment;
  • Requiring courts considering approval of consent decrees and settlement agreements to account for public comments and compliance with regulatory process statutes and executive orders;
  • Making it easier for succeeding administrations to petition a court for modification of a prior administration’s consent decrees by providing for de novo review of motions to modify, if the circumstances have changed; and
  • Requiring the Attorney General or, where appropriate, the defendant agency’s head, to certify to the court that he or she has approved certain proposed consent decrees.