March 23, 2010 by Dan Rohlf

Republicans Senators Target Fee Recoveries in Public Interest Suits Against Federal Agencies

A small group of Senate Republicans – most from conservative western states – have introduced a bill (available via E&E, subs. required) that would require the federal government to annually disclose a list of attorney fee awards it has given to allow public interest plaintiffs to recover expenses when they have successfully challenged decisions of federal agencies. Introduction of the bills was prodded by allegations from Karen Budd-Falen, a Wyoming-based attorney whose firm represents a variety of resource user groups, that environmental organizations are receiving “billions” of dollars from the federal government through attorney fee awards authorized under fee-shifting provisions of federal law, as well as through the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).

EAJA and similar fee-shifting statutes play a key role in allowing public interest organizations to challenge decisions by the federal government in court. Fee awards go to attorneys who successfully litigate a case against a federal agency, allowing lawyers to represent organizations that otherwise could not afford counsel. Some organizations also have in-house legal departments that can receive such awards, which generally cannot be shared with the organization’s non-legal staff.

Environmental groups were quick to point out that Budd-Falen’s “billions” claim was fanciful, but noted that …

March 16, 2009 by Dan Rohlf

The Associated Press reported last week that the Commerce Department’s inspector general is looking into who leaked a draft of the Bush Administration’s plans to prevent federal agencies from considering the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, expressing concern over what he termed “a serious abdication of duty” by the government official or officials who leaked the document to the National Wildlife Federation last summer, called for the investigation. The draft changes to ESA regulations surfaced in August 2008, revealing the outgoing administration’s efforts to weaken the Act’s Section 7 consultation process by allowing agencies to ignore impacts to endangered species “manifested through global processes,” a clear reference to climate change.

The Department of Interior finalized the regulatory revisions just in time for them to go into effect before the new …

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