Government report refutes ‘sue-and-settle’ claims

A new government report refutes claims that the Environmental Protection Agency colluded with public interests groups in the rulemaking process.

Republicans and business groups accuse the EPA of issuing some of its most controversial regulations out of settlements it reaches with green groups like the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians.

This so-called “sue-and-settle” practice gives the EPA an excuse to issue controversial regulations “behind closed doors” and speed up the rule-making process with little input from the public, critics say.

But the Government Accountability Office debunked Republicans’ claims in a report issued this week vindicating the EPA.

"The effect of settlements in deadline suits on EPA's rule-making priorities is limited,” the GAO reported.

The GAO found seven environmental laws that allow the public to sue the EPA to force it to regulate, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

The EPA issued nine rules stemming from seven “sue-and-settle” lawsuits between May 31, 2008 and June 1, 2013, the GAO reported.  

In each case, the EPA agreed to speed up the rule-making process, but it did not agree to make specific provisions in the regulations, according to the report.

“None of the seven settlements included terms that finalized the substantive outcome of a rule,” the report noted.