Lawmakers Hold EPA to Task for ‘Sue & Settle’ Tactic
Washington--Republican leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson accusing the agency of choosing to settle activist lawsuits under terms EPA then uses to expand its regulatory authority.
EPA reportedly is negotiating with environmental groups to settle two lawsuits concerning the agency’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. One of the lawsuits alleges that EPA has a duty to regulate groundwater pollution under the CWA. The other lawsuit alleges that EPA must mandate that states regulate nonpoint source pollution.
“Since neither allegation is true, we were very surprised to learn that EPA is choosing to settle these cases, rather than to honor the limits of its authority under the Clean Water Act and vigorously defend these cases,” wrote Reps. John Mica (Fla.) and Bob Gibbs (Ohio) and Sens. James Inhofe (Okla.) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.). Mica in a news release said that the “sue and settle” tactic is becoming an EPA tool for “backdoor jurisdiction grabs.”
The lawmakers asked Jackson to respond to several questions, including whether the agency has the authority to command a state to regulate nonpoint source pollution. Pollution from nonpoint sources can come from farms, city streets, suburban lawns and logging, mining and construction sites. When Congress passed the CWA, it dictated that with the exception of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, agricultural compliance with water quality standards had to be voluntary and incentive-based.