IFB president applauds EPA’s end to ‘sue and settle’ practice

IFB president hopes directive will help ensure all stakeholders have a voice in future environmental rulemaking.

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“The days of regulation through litigation are over,” said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt after signing an agencywide directive this week to end “sue and settle” practices. (Photo courtesy of American Farm Bureau Federation)

By Deana Stroisch

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt ordered the end of “sue and settle” practices in the agency last week.

“The days of regulation through litigation are over,” Pruitt said, signing an agencywide directive.

Richard Guebert Jr., Illinois Farm Bureau president, applauded the move.

“The EPA’s history of letting special interest groups dictate policy through litigation not only eliminated meaningful public discourse in the rulemaking process but also cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” Guebert said. “More importantly, it forced the agency to create and enforce regulations without due process.

“We would like to thank EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for working to increase transparency in the regulatory process and helping ensure that all stakeholders have a voice when new environmental rules are developed.”

Related: IFB explains farmer's 'bureaucratic nightmare' in D.C. Click here.

Illinois knows firsthand how a lawsuit – or even the threat of one – can result in increased regulations for farmers.

Lauren Lurkins, IFB’s director of environmental and natural resources, pointed to how new livestock program rules were created.

In 2008, the Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water submitted a petition to EPA for withdrawal of Illinois' federally delegated National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. EPA investigated the allegations and issued a report, requiring Illinois EPA to develop and maintain a comprehensive inventory of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) and evaluate their regulatory status. U.S. EPA and Illinois EPA continued to work to develop the rules, which went into effect in August 2014.

Under Pruitt’s new directive, EPA plans to:

- Publish notices of intent to sue EPA within 15 days of receiving the notice.

- Publish complaints or petitions for review in regard to an environmental law, regulation or rule in which the agency is a defendant or respondent in federal court within 15 days of receipt.

- Reach out to any states and/or regulated entities affected by potential settlements or consent decrees.

- Publish a list of consent decrees and settlement agreements that govern agency actions within 30 days, along with any attorney fees paid, and update it within 15 days of any new consent decree or settlement agreement.

- Prohibit the practice of entering into any consent decrees that exceed the authority of the courts.

- Exclude attorney’s fees and litigation costs when settling with those suing the agency.

- Provide sufficient time to issue or modify proposed and final rules, and take and consider public comment.

- Allow a 30-day public comment period for any proposed or modified consent decrees and settlements and hold a public hearing when requested.

Related: IFB president recommends changes to WOTUS definition. Click here

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