GAO Senate Testimony, Report Debunk Republican Criticism of Environmental Lawsuits

For Immediate Release

GAO Senate Testimony, Report Debunk Republican Criticism of Environmental Lawsuits

Trade, Industry Groups File 50 Percent More EPA Lawsuits Than Conservation Groups

WASHINGTON - In a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee, Alfredo Gómez of the Government Accountability Office testified today that lawsuits from environmental groups have a limited impact on the EPA's funding and priorities, but do force the agency to meet legal deadlines to take actions such as, among other things, setting air-quality standards that protect public health. The testimony directly contradicts politically driven assertions by congressional Republicans that environmental lawsuits are impeding the work of EPA and other federal agencies.

The GAO issued a report accompanying the testimony documenting the fact that trade associations and private industries filed many more lawsuits than environmental groups, with these interests responsible for 48 percent of lawsuits against the EPA from 1995 to 2011. That’s compared to just 30 percent for citizen and national environmental groups.

“Republicans have complained for years that lawsuits brought by environmental groups impede the ability of agency's like the EPA to do their jobs,” said Jamie Pang, endangered species campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The GAO's testimony and report shows this is false and that industries seeking to undermine protections for clean air and water file the most lawsuits. The real story is that Republicans are angered by the success of environmental groups in enforcing environmental laws and ensuring public health and safety.”

Federal laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act contain citizen suit provisions that allow environmental groups and others to force agencies to implement more stringent standards to clean our air and water and otherwise protect the environment. These provisions have allowed citizens to repeatedly enforce deadlines in the environmental statutes, actions that result in environmental protections.  

“Citizens and nonprofits can, and should, hold the government accountable to protect clean air and water and endangered species,” said Pang. “Environmental lawsuits tip the scales of justice away from deep pocketed and well-connected industries back towards environmental protections that benefit us all.”

EPA officials, in their official response to the GAO report, said they hoped it would finally end these “unfounded allegations.”

The new GAO report can be read here.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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