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Sparks flew during last week’s annual convention of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, in Casper. U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), chastized conservation groups WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Western Watersheds for excessive recourse to lawsuits, which she claimed are giving the environmental movement “a black eye.”

Rep. Lummis Lashes Out at Environmental Lawsuits

Sparks flew during last week’s annual convention of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, in Casper.

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), chastized conservation groups WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Western Watersheds for excessive recourse to lawsuits, which she claimed are giving the environmental movement “a black eye.”

“These are three organizations that are filing constant litigation, that have cottage industries built up to fund their lawyers and their lawsuits against federal agencies and the federal government to stop certain activities,” she said, according to a report in The Casper Star-Tribune.

“If the environmental movement is unified around any one concept, it’s that Cynthia Lummis is a disaster for the environment,” Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, told the newspaper. “The idea that she wants to speak on behalf of the environmental movement is ludicrous to an absurd degree.”

Last May, Lummis and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) jointly introduced the Government Litigation Savings Act, which would limit the fees recoverable by private citizens, small businesses and nonprofit organizations that win lawsuits against the federal government.

One of its provisions is that a party may not receive an award in fees and other expenses of more than $200,000 in a single adjudication, and for no more than three such cases in the same calendar year, unless an agency’s hearing officer determines that a higher amount is required “to avoid severe and unjust harm to the prevailing party.”

The bill has been referred to a committee for a report.

“When the government stopped tracking EAJA payments in 1995, it was a dream come true for radical environmental groups,” Lummis said last spring. “Lack of oversight has fueled the fire for these groups to grind the work of land management and other federal agencies to a halt, and it does so on the taxpayer’s dime.”

In turn, the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife released a statement that said, “We only recover those costs when we prevail in court, meaning a judge agrees that the law has been violated. Without the ability to recover those costs, the American people would lose their ability to challenge the federal government when it violates the law and fails to fulfill its duties.”

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead’s speech at last week’s convention was less inflammatory, although it came down strongly on the side of oil and gas development.

“Do we want mineral development or preservation of the environment?” the governor asked, according to Wyoming Business Report. “We need to reject that question,” he answered himself. “We need energy, but we also need conservation of our natural resources.”

He said delays in the issuance of permits while awaiting environmental impact studies on six oil and gas developments have cost the state $160 million in lost revenue.

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15 comments

  1. Uhhh, you forgot to mention that they limit the lawsuits only for those worth more than 7 million dollars. They should be stopped entirely except for protection for the poor.
    Please remember, they do not have to reveal how much$$$$$$$$$ they get to take out of the pockets of working taxpayers. On the other hand all of us working folks have to report exactly how much we earned and account for anything we deduct to not pay taxes on. That may be one reason their net worth increases so fast. The fact that they do not have to itemize like working taxpayers do helps them increase fast too.

  2. The point is really not to make money. Last I looked, Earthjustice recovered something like 10 percent of its budget. The objective is to cost others money, the delay, expense, obstruction is the real goal. Make a project so slow, the time value of the investment becomes negative.
    Whatever the case, however “noble” the cause, these lawsuits are brought with malice, period.

  3. Hearing Kieren Suckling evaluating anyone else’s environmental credentials is too funny. Is there any org that has offed more species in the past 5 years? The money they cost the US Fish and Wildlife could probably save a species a month.

    Is there another “environmental” group that has had to pay more than a half million for fraud (lying) that stood up under all appeals and despite all his lawyers?

    I’m hoping he shows up in the comments as he’s a ranter.

  4. Lets look at the other side of the “wasting poor taxpayers money”. Is it reasonable to expect state and federal agencies to grasp the details and follow environmental law? For example is the police officer that tickets us for a traffic violation wasting taxpayer money by being wasting time enforcing trivial traffic laws or are we being ticketed because we were careless or worse about traffic laws? And how many conservatives who think environmental groups should have limits received via damages would want to apply the same idea to trial lawyers? hummm

  5. Enviros only care about money & power, not the law. Otherwise why would they be trying to overrule congress on the wolf delisting. Congress writes the laws because the constitution gives them the right to do so. Tehy do not have to ask permission of enviro groups (except those they want donations from and those who might oppose them the next term.)

  6. Actually if you want to use the policeman analogy, environmental groups are the Blackwater Xe of enforcement. Privately owned, answerable to no one. We have policemen already, they are the US Fish and Wildlife and the Justice Department

  7. Would you rather a visitor to the Mesa Verde be able to see smoke (I haven’t noted any stats of health issues), or would you rather the residents of the area be able to afford electricity? What was illegal about wheat farmers not wanting to raise mice in their wheat fields?
    Why is it any more illegal for ranchers in the northern rockies to try to save their livestock than it is for ranchers or horse raisers in the east?
    What makes it illegal about a family being able to drive to a fishing hole or picnic area, just because enviros want the land all to themselves.
    What is legal about enviros filing lawsuit after lawsuit demanding that this that and the other receive protection, while it is up to the taxpayers to pay for all of the studies to try to find out the truth. If it goes against the groups, they merely file more lawsuits.
    Evnironmental groups care about money, not animals, not air, not anything, just money and power. Can you name anything they actually do besides file lawsuits that taxpayer have to fund?

  8. Todd, you have some interesting allegations ranging from mice in wheat fields to saving livestock to a family not being able to drive to a picnic area. I have to assume that if agreed upon standards of conduct are followed you have a point. But something tells me there are a lot of unanswered details in your allegations.
    Getting back to our real discussion, one primary reason for a lawsuit being filed is to force the other “party” to honor something. So if the federal and state agencies were more diligent in their duties as they relate to environmental laws, knowing they would likely be carefully scrutinized, maybe there would be less wasted money on both sides. Certainly that isn’t too much to ask?

  9. What is a farmer being forced to honor when part of his wheat field has to be shut off to protect mice? What is a rancher being forced to honor when he is forced to allow wolves and griz to eat his livestock, read the other post on this site and take a good look at the photos and see where the griz were that the farther shot, tell me honor even enters into it. Take a look at the fact we were told we needed 300 wolves, and now a couple thousand are not enough. Envrionmental groups are so greedy for more and more money that they do not even “honor” their own word.
    Sorry money and power over other folks is what this is about, pure and simple. Legalized thievery if you will.

  10. Rep. Lummis Lashes Out at Environmental Lawsuits At a petroleum industry meeting, the Wyoming politician carpeted three groups she says file too many legal actions is the title of the essay. While I am interested in a dialogue about this, I am not about to jump in on wolves. Environmental values encompass much more than wolves.

  11. Go to earthjustice.org and look at the lawsuits they have filed at any given time. They used to brag about 70 or 90 or whatever, I see a person would have to go thru and count them now.
    AS for the wolves, they wanted 300 in the 3 states, when we surpassed that so fast, the states agreed to 150 each. Of course these groups filed lawsuits, for more, I think it was up to 5000 at the time congress stepped in.
    Earthjustice is the legal arm of the Sierra Club. It is unconscionable that the amount the various groups are awarded in each lawsuit is kept secret from those of us forced to provide the money. If I understand it, lots of groups can jump into the lawsuit and harvest the money, even if they do not have lawyers. We the taxpayers have a right to know where our money is going.

  12. No doubt….. the obstructionist need to be nuetered with Cythia’s bill! The list on Cythia’s web site that list what reps are supporting the bill did not include Wisconsin rep Reed Ribble …. in talking to one of the reps in his office, I believe he does support this bill.

  13. We do not have a moral right or a divine mandate to destroy every living entity on earth that dose not fit the Republicans idea of a perfect god fearing society of drones. It must be difficult to be Gods chosen and to have all the answer

  14. mike….. so filling inundating law suits is your solution…..so being a leech on our Environmental resources is your solution……so over populated predators around certain ranches is your solution….. so maximum predators at maximum cost to the taxpayer rancher pet owner and game herds is your solution…..

    Groups like RMEF introduced Elk into certain areas of northern Wisconsin where they would fit in without impact on private land owners. They were not afraid to chip in a few bucks to do so! They also realize the limitations of the animal and its impact on land owners.

    If a group like HSUS were to want an introduction of elk in Wisconsin….. it would have been a law suit to get it here…… ignore and downplay the true cost of the animal on society….. brag about what an environmental success it is when the animal starts impacting private land owners…… file more law suits to prohibit management of the animal…..and file some more law suits when senators and congressman don’t see it your way. Then continually demonizing the private land owners and local people that turn against you!

  15. mike, what makes you think that you are ordained to decide what species need to be increased and where? Interestingly despite the tons of money and power you have wrested from the people in your drive to rule over people, you do not seem to find it necessary to suffer yourself, only force others to make sacrifices. The main difference between lawsuit filing environmental groups and dictators overseas overthrowing each other is they way you attempt to gain the power. NGOs use lawsuits, but neither care in the least about a negative impact on those in the way of their quest for power and money.