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EPA Terminates “Sue and Settle” Policy

Oct 2017

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive this week meant to curtail the agency’s so called “sue and settle” practices.  In a strongly worded memo accompanying the directive, Administrator Pruitt scolded the EPA for past efforts to resolve litigation through consent decrees and settlement agreements with outside interest groups. 

“In the past, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has sought to resolve litigation through consent decrees and settlement agreement that appear to be the result of collusion with outside groups,” the memo read.  Behind closed doors, EPA and the outside groups agreed that EPA would take an action with a certain end in mind, relinquishing some of its discretion over the Agency’s priorities and duties and handing them over to special interests and the courts…  ‘Sue and settle,’ as this tactic has been called undermines the fundamental principles of government that I outlined on my first day.”

Administrator Pruitt also noted that previous sue and settle practices undermine important functions of the agency and undermine its commitment to due process. 

“By emphasizing the importance of process, adhering to the rule of law, and embracing cooperative federalism EPA increases the quality of, and public confidence in, its regulations.  Through transparency and public participation, EPA can reassure the American public that the rules that apply to them have been deliberated upon and determined in a forum open to all.”

The directive is part of Administrator Pruitt’s “Back-to-Basics Agenda” that seeks to refocus EPA on it intended mission.  The agenda includes three components: protecting the environment, sensible regulation that allow economic growth, and engagement with state and local partners.