Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during an interview for Reuters at his office in Washington, U.S., 10 July 2017. Yuri Gripas / REUTERS

By Timothy Gardner; Editing by Jonathan Oatis
16 October 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a directive to his agency on Monday seeking to end the practice of settling lawsuits with environmental groups behind closed doors, saying the groups have had too much influence on regulation.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who sued the agency he now runs more than a dozen times in his former job as attorney general of oil producing Oklahoma, has long railed against the so-called practice of “sue and settle.” The EPA under former President Barack Obama quietly settled lawsuits from environmental groups with little input from regulated entities, such as power plants, and state governments, he argues.

The directive seeks to make EPA more transparent about lawsuits by reaching out to states and industry that could be affected by settlements, forbidding the practice of entering into settlements that exceed the authority of courts, and excluding attorney’s fees and litigation costs when settling with groups.

Most lawsuits by green groups on the agency seek to push the agency to speed up regulation on issues such as climate and air and water pollution, studies have shown.

“The days of regulation through litigation are over,” Pruitt said. “We will no longer go behind closed doors and use consent decrees and settlement agreements to resolve lawsuits filed against the agency.” [more]

EPA head seeks to avoid settlements with green groups

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