Restoring Balance to Environmental Litigation

Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and Environment
Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and Environment
Hearing Date: September 27, 2018 2:00 pm 2154 Rayburn HOB

PURPOSE:
  • To examine special-interest environmental litigation against federal agencies and identify reforms to curb excessive litigation and the abuse of fee shifting statutes such as the Equal Access to Justice Act.
BACKGROUND:
  • The Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and Environment has previously heard from a variety of witnesses about the impacts of environmental litigation and the toll it has taken on businesses, industries, and critical infrastructure development. Special-interest environmental litigation can undermine sound land management decisions related to public access, grazing, and infrastructure permitting.
  • Although parties to litigation typically have to foot the bill for their lawsuits, fee-shifting provisions allow fringe groups to repeatedly bring lawsuits and obtain large fee awards from the federal government.
  • Stakeholders have identified several areas of potential reform that could safeguard the right of citizens to challenge the government, while minimizing abusive litigation that is often intended to impede the statutory missions of federal agencies such as the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture.

Witnesses and testimonies

Name Title Organization Panel Document
Mr. Jonathan Brightbill Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division U.S. Department of Justice Document
Mr. Lawson Fite General Counsel American Forest Resource Counsel Document
Mr. Ryan Yates Director of Congressional Relations American Farm Bureau Federation Document
Ms. Sara A. Colangelo Environment Law and Policy Program Director, Visiting Professor of Law Georgetown University Law Center Document