Congressional Members Introduce Endangered Species Act Settlement Reform
WASHINGTON – Texas Congressmen Bill Flores, John Carter, K. Michael Conaway and Mac Thornberry along with New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce introduced legislation that stops lawsuit abuse from the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Congressmen Flores, Carter, Conaway, Pearce and Thornberry have introduced H.R. 1314, to protect American citizens from the burdensome and costly regulatory impact of closed-door litigation settlements between special interest groups and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). This will be accomplished by updating the ESA to give local government and stakeholders a say in ESA settlements that affect them. This bill also limits the use of taxpayer dollars from hardworking American families to fund ESA suits and preserves the FWS’s statutory regulatory authority.
“It is time that we stop these closed-door settlements that are abusing the Endangered Species Act and costing American taxpayers millions of dollars, both of which are hurting the American economy. We must ensure that all parties affected by the conservation process are able to be involved. Through ESA settlement modernization, we increase transparency and stop the unwarranted economic damage and job losses that result from these abusive lawsuits,” Congressman Flores said.
"We have to stop financing bogus lawsuits from fly-by-the-night environmental groups. They are damaging development in our local economies. This bill would help create jobs and growth in our communities. We have to keep our country thriving and producing," said Congressman Carter. "Nobody sits down at the breakfast room table, working on their personal budgets, and thinks small, microscopic animals will interfere with their jobs and their income. The runaway fish and wildlife groups are affecting mom and pop and their kids in their ability to live the American dream."
“I am proud to support this bill, which would protect Texas communities and landowners from unaccountable bureaucrats and overzealous environmentalists. For too long, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been forced to settle a barrage of lawsuits brought by shadowy environmental organizations who manipulate our justice system to change federal environmental and land-use policies. This legislation would protect the service from having to litigate nuisance lawsuits, but more importantly, it would require that local communities have the opportunity to veto any settlements between the service and these environmental groups,” Congressman Conaway stated.
“For too long, the Endangered Species Act has been used not as a valuable tool to protect species, but as a money-making scheme for lawyers. This legislation is an important step toward restoring the Endangered Species Act to its original, noble goal of conservation. And, it helps ensure that taxpayer money is being spent responsibly and effectively, instead of being wasted on politically-driven lawsuits,” Congressman Pearce said.
“ESA lawsuits have become big business for environmental extremists, and taxpayers are stuck footing the bill. This legislation applies commonsense reforms to the ESA settlement process to drive down costs to taxpayers, private individuals, and businesses alike. It will also give a voice to those who are most affected by ESA lawsuits and regulations—those who earn their living on the land, such as farmers, ranchers, and energy producers,” said Congressman Thornberry.
H.R.1314 is the House companion bill to S.19, introduced by Senator John Cornyn of Texas.
In recent years, FWS has been subject to numerous lawsuits from environmental and special interest groups. These groups have a pattern of flooding the FWS with requests to classify numerous species as endangered. Because of the overreaching methods that these groups use to overwhelm the FWS, it is virtually impossible for the agency to meet certain statutory deadlines to respond to the requests. The groups then follow-up with lawsuits against the agency when it fails to meet its review deadlines.
These abusive lawsuits disrupt the functions of the FWS and cause the wasteful spending of taxpayer funds. For example, in 2011 a settlement with two environmental groups – made behind closed doors — resulted in a “work plan” for the U.S. Department of the Interior to make determinations for hundreds of species onto the endangered species list. This action was taken without any outside input from experts or impacted groups; instead, the settlement relied only on the plaintiff’s demands. This abusive case and the resulting settlement also required FWS to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees; in other words, taxpayer dollars were essentially used to sue the federal government.