12 Attorneys General Sue Environmental Protection Agency

By Terry-Cobo, Sarah | THE JOURNAL RECORD, July 16, 2013 | Go to article overview

12 Attorneys General Sue Environmental Protection Agency


Terry-Cobo, Sarah, THE JOURNAL RECORD


The state attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over the federal Clean Air Act.

Scott Pruitt joined with 11 other attorneys general, alleging that the EPA has violated the Freedom of Information Act by not producing documents. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.

In February, Pruitt used the FOIA to request correspondence between the EPA and 17 environmental groups. That request included documents from 16 EPA offices. The EPA denied the request, stating the request was too broad.

In an afternoon media briefing, Pruitt said he believes the EPA is collaborating and coordinating with environmental nonprofit organizations to force stricter rules on clean air, clean water and solid waste disposal issues, a tactic known as sue and settle. Pruitt said in 40 cases, the EPA has settled a lawsuit the same day it was filed.

The idea that sue and settle is a tactic the EPA employs is a myth, said Alisha Johnson, spokeswoman with the agency. The EPA has no control over who sues the agency, and settling is a long- standing legal practice, she said.

"When we settle, it is determined the settlement will save government and taxpayer dollars," she said.

Pruitt said a case settled in the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco affected the timeline all states have to comply with a clean air statute known as regional haze. When the EPA settles with an organization that affects national regulation, it removes the state's and the public's ability to comment, he said.

LeAnne Burnett, an attorney at Crowe & Dunlevy who focuses on energy, environmental and natural resource litigation, said the background leading to the case was more interesting than the case itself. If an agency isn't moving fast enough to implement regulation, a nonprofit will sue in an attempt to get the agency to act quickly, she said. …

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