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| Main | Julie Kelly: The Government's Story on the January 5th Pipe Bombs Doesn't Make Sense
March 01, 2024

Under Biden, the Sue-and-Settle Scam Is Back, Baby!

"Sue-and-settle" is a tactic used by leftwing groups. The leftwing groups can't get their agenda passed by legislation, so instead they sue government agencies controlled by liberals who they know will play ball with them. The liberal bureaucrats pretend they can't possibly win the suit, and so they settle, implementing the desired leftwing policy through a consent decree stamped into law by a judge.

This is actually even better than a law, because you can repeal a law. It's very hard to get rid of a consent decree.

Trump announced the end of this practice. But now, James Varney reports, the era of sue-and-settle is back, baby!

When the Biden administration announced in 2022 that it would remove some 4 million acres of federal land in Western states from oil and gas exploration, environmental groups hailed the decision as a milestone in their fight against global warming.

"With the oil and gas industry bent on despoiling American's public lands and fueling the climate crisis, this is a critical opportunity for the Biden administration to chart a new path toward clean energy and independence from fossil fuels," said Jeremy Nichols, a director with WildEarth Guardians.

But Nichols could just as easily have slapped himself on the back: The administration's move was part of a private settlement of a lawsuit filed by WildEarth and others over the objections of energy consortiums, whose efforts to intervene in the matter were dismissed.

A similar thing happened last August, when the Biden administration announced it had agreed to exclude 6 million acres of the energy-rich Gulf of Mexico seabed from exploration to settle a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, including the Sierra Club - an announcement that triggered operational delays for the industry and expensive litigation to overturn.

Administration critics say these moves reflect the resurgence of a practice embraced by the Obama administration and rejected during Donald Trump's presidency: "sue and settle." The tactic is simple: An advocacy group sues a federal agency for failing to enforce laws or regulations. Agency officials and the plaintiffs then come to a private agreement and that deal is ratified by the courts via a binding consent decree.

The practice is common at every level of government. New York City, for example, is obligated to house and feed tens of thousands of migrants because of a consent decree it entered into to settle a 1979 lawsuit brought by advocates for the homeless. But it is most prevalent in the environmental field, where well-funded groups commonly sue the Environmental Protection Agency or the Bureau of Land Management within the Department of the Interior alleging failure to enforce provisions of the Clean Air Act or regulations regarding federal leases for energy production.

Although such consent decrees do not have the force of laws passed by Congress or regulations issued by the government that have gone through formal review and allow for public comment, they set the rules of the road. Critics say it has allowed government to advance policy goals that cannot be achieved through normal democratic channels.

"It's not really an adversarial lawsuit, and with a settlement agreement and consent decree the case is never really over," said Dave Tryon, director of litigation at the free-market Buckeye Institute. "The EPA is anxious to increase its power and control; it's always happy to expand that."

The legal maneuver represents, according to this view, a return to the proverbial smoked-filled backrooms of politics. Huddled privately, without input from citizens or businesses that may be adversely affected by the decisions -- let alone the public at large -- lawsuits that often involve parties more simpatico than adversarial are settled. The plaintiffs and defendants are familiar to one another from years in the environmental lobbying and litigation world -- and because of the "revolving door" between environmental groups and Democratic administrations. These like-minded players approach the issue seeking similar goals, a process that has only intensified with the Biden administration and leftist environmental groups sharing the belief that global warming is an existential threat.

"Overall, it's harkening back to the bad old days -- they do this in order to avoid scrutiny and bypass the regulatory process," said Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, an advocacy arm of the Institute for Energy Research. "It's a way to advance an agenda that may be rejected by voters. It's a nefarious practice in which the agency and the environmental groups get what they want."

Read the whole thing.


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posted by Disinformation Expert Ace at 04:22 PM

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