EPA Gives Millions to Green Groups That Sue It; Massive Funding Advantage for Enviro Groups and Green Welfare

by Hans Bader on July 10, 2011

in Blog, Features, Politics

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The EPA gives millions to the environmental groups that sue it.  “When the EPA settles or loses those suits, it then awards the groups millions more in attorneys’ fees,” notes legal commentator Walter Olson.  “‘The EPA isn’t harmed by these suits,’ said Jeffrey Holmstead, who was an EPA official during the Bush administration. ‘Often the suits involve things the EPA wants to do anyway. By inviting a lawsuit and then signing a consent decree, the agency gets legal cover from political heat.’ Holmstead called this kind of litigation ‘sweetheart suits.'”

The EPA gave millions to groups that sued it to get it to regulate greenhouse gases, like the Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council.  Those groups brought a lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), which vastly expanded the EPA’s jurisdiction.  More recently, they sued to compel the EPA to issue greenhouse gas “performance standards” for power plants and refineries. In a recent settlement, the EPA agreed to do just that.  Critics “said the costly settlement was ‘concocted in secret’” and that other lawsuits by EPA grantees resulted in collusive settlements that cost the economy billions, increased the EPA’s powers, and gave environmental groups things that they were unlikely to win in any court ruling.

Government funding is one of many reasons that these environmental groups have a huge financial advantage in the political process.  For example, an American University study found that supporters of the cap-and-trade bill aimed at global warming had a massive financial edge over their critics.  American University’s Professor Nisbet notes that “the effort by environmentalists to pass cap and trade may have been the best financed political cause in history.”  It nonetheless has failed thus far, perhaps because of the enormous cost and waste associated with the bill.  (In 2008, Obama said that “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket” under the cap-and-trade plan he favored, and that it would “bankrupt” coal-fired power plants.  The cap-and-trade bill is chock full of costly corporate welfare, and would have a “trivially small” effect on greenhouse gas emissions while imposing an enormous cost, according to a former Obama Advisor.  It is supported by the same special-interests and corporate rent-seekers who supported the stimulus package’s green-jobs provisions, which used tax dollars to outsource American jobs, subsidizing foreign “green jobs” that replaced thousands of American jobs.  Recent EPA rules will wipe out at least 800,000 jobs.  Two economists say the stimulus destroyed 550,000 jobs.)

As Walter Olson notes, collusive lawsuits are not unique to the EPA, nor are incestuous relationships between agencies and liberal lobbying groups.  In his book, Schools for Misrule, he chronicles how “other government agencies, much like the EPA, use settlements of pressure-group lawsuits as a way to go along with desired expansions of power.”  For example, “corrections and foster-care systems commit to step up program offerings and . . . seek higher funding to accomplish their missions; union-allied public-sector managers give away the store on employee benefits disputes, and so forth (scroll to “Consent of the Governors”). From New York to Alabama, state education departments have covertly or even openly assisted lawsuits against themselves intended to force spending expansion. And once sweetheart negotiations result in an adverse consent decree . . . the locked-in big-government policies can be nearly impossible to unlock later on, should voters’ moods change.”

Nor is the EPA’s willingness to fork over millions in fees in collusive settlements unusual for agencies in the Obama Administration.  Other agencies in the Obama Administration frequently settle lawsuits brought by liberal groups by giving them everything they ask for, even when the liberal group was virtually certain to lose its lawsuit against the government.  The Obama Administration frequently agrees to pay attorneys fees to trial lawyers even when such fees are barred by provisions in the Equal Access to Justice Act.  That law, which governs the award of attorneys fees in many lawsuits against the EPA, protects the government from having to pay fees even when it loses a lawsuit, as long as its position was not frivolous but rather was “substantially justified.”

Alan Burke July 10, 2011 at 6:52 pm

You stated “For example, an American University study found that supporters of the cap-and-trade bill aimed at global warming had a massive financial edge over their critics.”, citing my website http://climateinsight.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/in-cap-and-trade-fight-environmentalists-had-spending-edge-over-opponents-new-report-finds/

I trust that readers will read the follow-on refutation comment beginning:

“Bombshell exclusive: Leading expert withdraws name from Climate Shift report, explains how key conclusion that environmentalists weren’t outspent by opponents of climate bill “is contradicted by Nisbet’s own data”

Nisbet’s data actually shows enviros were far outspent, especially where it mattered most: Lobbying, advertising, and election spending.

Prof. Matthew Nisbet of American University has written an error-riddled, self-contradictory, demonstrable false report, Climate Shift: Clear Vision for the Next Decade of Public Debate. The 99-page report’s two central, but ridiculous, claims are:

– The environmental movement outspent opponents during the climate bill debate.

– Media coverage of climate change has become balanced and was not a factor in the defeat of the cap-and-trade bill. …

None of the report’s major conclusions can stand the light of day, particularly those two. Climate Shift is not a revisionist history. It is a counterfactual history. …

More … http://climateprogress.org/2011/04/18/climate-shift-mathew-nisbet/

Sal July 11, 2011 at 10:08 am

The American University study’s conclusions are consistent with a series of prior studies by other academics similarly finding that environmentalist organizations outspend the other side by a considerable multiple.

Environmentalist organizations take in and spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on the political process. Corporations spend less than that by far in opposing environmental regulation.

Alan Burke’s comment above is deeply misleading. None of the American University report’s co-authors distanced himself from the study. It was a “reviewer” who did so. There is nothing extraordinary about a paid reviewer having a different take than a study’s author.

The AU study is correct, and its conclusions are not a surprise to anyone who has studied this area.

Alan Burke July 11, 2011 at 10:51 am

Sal your reply to claimed that my comment was deeply misleading. I did not claim that it was an a co-author who withdrew. I suggest that you review the original and updated PDF versions of the report and note that Robert Brulle, one of 5 invited to review the original embargoed document wrote to Mathew Nisbet with objections to changes made after the review to request that he be removed from the list of reviewers.


Original: “Robert Brulle, Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology at Drexel University. His research focuses on environmental politics and the role of social movements in the creation of environmental policies. He is the author of Agency, Democracy, and Nature: The U.S. Environmental Movement from a Critical Theory Perspective (MIT Press, 2000) as well as numerous peer-reviewed studies in this area. His current work funded by the National Science Foundation examines the interactions between environmental groups, foundations and government institutions over the last 100 years.”


Occasional Reader July 11, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Supporters of the cap-and-trade bill vastly outspent the bill’s opponents.

Environmentalists and advocates of restrictions on greenhouse gases typically outspend their adversaries in lobbying, elections, and advertising.

That was certainly true in the recent Congressional battle over cap-and-trade.

It was also true in the battle over California’s Proposition 23, which challenged the state’s global-warming mandates. Environmentalists and other opponents of Proposition 23 outspent its supporters, as even the New York Times admitted:


Marlo Lewis July 12, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Eco-pressure groups spent an estimated $100 million in the last Congress alone in a failed attempt to bring even one R in the Senate over to the pr0-cap-and-trade camp (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0710/40132.html). Corporate rent-seekers also spent big bucks lobbying for cap-and-trade and funding pro-cap-and-trade candidates (http://www.masterresource.org/2010/03/climate-politicdebate-when-will-the-sanctimony-end/). Last, but certainly not least, the U.N. (think of all those IPCC reports and international climate conferences), scores of environmental agencies, and hundreds of taxpayer-funded academics have been promoting cap-and-trade for more than a decade. Total cap-and-trade advocacy efforts easily exceed a billion dollars.

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