GOP Michigan Rep. Bill Huizenga testified before a House committee Wednesday on a bill that would restructure litigation rules under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to reflect existing law in the Equal Access to Justice Act.
Huizenga’s bill, the “Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act,” would prevent environmental groups from using “sue and settle” tactics to advance a political agenda while profiting off taxpayers through recompensed attorney fees for successful suits.
“Litigating attorneys representing non-governmental entities have taken advantage of the ESA, raking in millions of dollars of taxpayer funded money,” Huizenga said during the hearing. “This bill would ensure that all Americans that sue the federal government are entitled to the same reasonable limits when it comes to being awarded taxpayer funded attorney fees.”
Current regulation gives federal agencies 90 days to find whether listing under the ESA is warranted for a species after receiving a petition. Environmental groups have abused the deadline by petitioning for hundreds of species at a time, then suing when the agency misses the deadline to publish its initial findings, according to Holsinger Law Manager Kent Holsinger’s testimony in the Senate hearing.
Huizenga’s bill removes the 90-day deadline and caps attorney fee awards for successful litigants at $125 an hour.
TheDCNF found evidence of environmental groups high jacking ESA implementation through litigation. Environmental groups were the litigating party in 90 percent of ESA-related lawsuits against federal agencies from 2005 to 2015, TheDCNF reported in March.
“They sue. They settle. They collect their attorney fees, usually at exorbitant rates. They rinse and repeat, over and over again,” Holsinger said during his testimony.
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