GOP Eyes Biden Sue-and-Settle Policy

36 House Members Press Biden Reversal of Trump Sue-and-Settle Policy


By Todd Neeley, DTN/Progressive Farmer 



LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Thirty-six members of Congress launched an investigation into why the Biden administration reversed course on a Trump administration policy that allowed public visibility into the practice of sue and settle within federal agencies.


Last week the Republican members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Western Caucus sent letters to EPA Administrator Michael Regan and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland asking for documents and other materials in connection to the decision.


Through the sue-and-settle process, environmental groups and others have made a cottage industry out of suing and forcing EPA to settle. The agency has taken heat for making so-called backroom deals with those groups, often leading to changes in environmental laws.


Back in 2017, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced an agency-wide directive to end the practice. Pruitt proclaimed in a news release the days of "regulation through litigation are over."


Typically, when EPA is sued by an outside party, that party asks a court to compel the agency to take certain steps.


That can lead to "change in a statutory duty or enforcing timelines set by the law, and then EPA will acquiesce through a consent decree or settlement agreement, affecting the agency's obligations under the statute," EPA said in the 2017 news release.


The Biden EPA released a memorandum on March 18, 2022, which revoked the Trump directive while stating the agency was "committed to fair, transparent, and efficient resolution of environmental claims brought against the EPA."


The GOP letters to Regan and Haaland said the Biden administration's "decision to reverse course and allow special interest groups to make policy without stakeholder input is troubling."


The letters were led by House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer, R-Ky., and Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse, R-Wash. The representatives asked the agencies for documents and communications in connection to the March 2022 directive, as well as all documents and communications between EPA and any groups or individuals outside the agency regarding the sue-and-settle practice.


"Often times these cases affect state-level considerations while shutting out the states and other critical stakeholders from the decision-making process," the representatives said in the letters...