Tuesday, July 16, 2013

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Attorney General Abbott Files Lawsuit Against Obama Administration To Review Documents in EPA “Sue to Settle” Scheme

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and attorneys general from 11 other states filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), charging the EPA with failing to comply with federal transparency and open government laws. The states’ lawsuit seeks access to information about a “sue then settle” scheme wherein the EPA coordinated with environmental groups that file “friendly” lawsuits against the EPA in order to manipulate the legal system – and therefore determine environmental policy without the involvement of the states.

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Multi-state FOIA lawsuit against EPA


Under the federal Clean Air Act, the states are granted primary authority to implement the nation’s air quality laws. However, that federalist system has been undermined by the EPA’s “sue then settle” scheme which prompted the states to file a lawsuit seeking to unveil the EPA’s practice of voluntarily entering into secretly negotiated consent decrees with environmental groups like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and others in court. The tactic is a way for EPA to impose environmental policy without the knowledge or involvement of the states. In one instance, the EPA was sued by an environmental group and a consent decree was filed the very same day.

Texas is one of 12 states including Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming that filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in February seeking documents between environmental groups and EPA officials regarding implementation of the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze program. Today’s suit seeks to gain access to those documents in an effort to analyze the extent the Obama Administration used this “sue to settle” practice and to determine the next course of action for states.