NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Environmental Groups Collecting Millions from Federal Agencies They Sue

May 14, 2012

Deep-pocketed environmental groups are collecting millions of dollars from the federal agencies they regularly sue to enforce conservation measures.  The payouts, which aggregate to tens of millions of dollars, even allow for reimbursement of legal fees, further encouraging enterprising environmentalists to take on the government in court, says Fox News.

The law that allows this to continue is the Equal Access to Justice Act, which was signed into law by President Carter in 1980 to help veterans, seniors and small business owners stand up to federal agencies.  Unfortunately, it has now been hijacked by the environmental lobby.

  • The General Accounting Office (GAO) tracked 525 legal fee reimbursements that totaled $44.4 million from 2001 through 2010.
  • Conservation group lawyers have received reimbursement rates as high as $750 an hour.
  • Additionally, the GAO found that many federal agencies have failed to adequately track their payouts in these lawsuits.
  • It found that only 10 of 75 agencies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior could provide data on cases and attorney fee reimbursements.

Environmental groups respond to criticism of the excessive payouts by emphasizing they only receive payments if they win, and that they only win if they can prove the government is breaking the law.

Nevertheless, the incredible reimbursement rates for litigation fees deserve greater attention.  Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) jointly introduced the Government Litigation Savings Act to reform the Equal Access to Justice Act.

  • If passed, the bill would cap reimbursements at $200 per hour.
  • It would also limit repetitive lawsuits and require full accounting of payments authorized by the Equal Access law.
  • This would preserve much of the original function of the law while reforming those parts that have allowed environmentalists to take advantage of it.

Source: Joshua Rhett Miller, "Environmental Groups Collecting Millions from Federal Agencies They Sue, Studies Show," Fox News, May 8, 2012.

For text:


Browse more articles on Environment Issues