From 2009-2012, Department of Justice data shows American taxpayers paid nearly $53 million in so-called environmental groups’ legal fees.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has asked for a six-month delay in making a final determination on whether to list the Gunnison sage grouse as an endangered species—moving the decision past the November elections. An E & E report states: Colorado elected leaders “fear the listing could have significant economic impacts.”
The report continues: “WildEarth Guardians is not opposing the latest extension after Fish and Wildlife agreed to some extensive new mitigation measures that will be made in the interim, including increasing buffer zones around sage grouse breeding grounds, called leks, and deferring coal, oil and gas leasing.” It goes on to say: “But the Center for Biological Diversity, which is a party to the settlement agreements with WildEarth Guardians, said the latest extension is a bad move for the grouse, which it says has needed ESA protections for years.”
Two important items should be noticed in the Gunnison sage grouse story. One, the power the environmental groups wield. Two, part of appeasing the environmental groups involves “deferring coal, oil, and gas leasing.”
It is widely known that these groups despise fossil fuels. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) brags about its use of lawsuits to block development—but it is not just oil and gas they block; it is virtually all human activity.
In researching for this week’s column, I have talked to people from a variety of industry and conservation efforts. Whether I was talking to someone interested in protecting big horn sheep, a fishing enthusiast, a rancher, or an attorney representing ranching or extractive industries, CBD seems to be a thorn in everyone’s side. All made comments similar to what Amos Eno, who has been involved in conservation for more than forty years, told me: “CBD doesn’t care about the critters. They are creating a listing pipeline and then making money off of it.” Environmental writer Ted Williams called CBD “perennial plaintiffs.”
In an April 8, 2014 hearing before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Karen Budd-Falen, a fifth-generation rancher and an attorney specializing in environmental litigation, talked about the need for ESA reform: “Public information regarding payment of attorney’s fees for ESA litigation is equally difficult to access.” Addressing HR 4316—which requires a report on attorney’s fees and costs for ESA related litigation—she says: “It should not be a radical notion for the public to know how much is being paid by the federal government and to whom the check is written.”
As she reports in her testimony, Budd-Falen’s staff did an analysis of the 276-page spreadsheet run released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) listing litigation summaries in cases defended by the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Wildlife Section. Although the DOJ release itself contained no analysis, her legal staff did the calculations and found nearly $53 million of taxpayer money was paid out over an approximate three-year period. However, she then shows how her own Freedom of Information Act requests have proven “that the DOJ does not keep an accurate account of the cases it defends”—making the actual dollar figure much higher.
Despite numerous attempts, the ESA has not had any major revisions in more than 25 years. The Wall Street Journal states: “The ESA’s mixed record on wildlife restoration and its impact on business have made the law vulnerable to critics.” Groups like CBD have twisted the intent of the law. Reform is now essential—not just to save taxpayer dollars, but to put the focus back on actually saving the species.”
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.
Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network (Creative Commons)