`Sue and Settle’ Legislation Expected to Start Moving Soon

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By Rachel Leven

The House is expected to start moving as early as this summer to pass legislation that would add new public comment requirements to “sue-and-settle” citizen lawsuits, addressing many Republicans’ issues over certain types of environmental litigation.

But the outlook for the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017 ( S. 119, H.R. 469) is less clear in the Senate. The Senate version was introduced in January by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

“It’s a very important bill that I’d like to get passed,” Grassley told Bloomberg BNA June 20 of his legislation. When asked if the bill would likely be passed out of Congress in 2017, he said, “I can’t predict. I don’t know.”

The legislation would bar federal agencies from filing complaints and pre-negotiated consent decrees and settlement agreements on the same day if those cases are aimed at requiring the agency to take action. It would require that interested parties have the opportunity to intervene before any consent decrees or settlement agreements are filed, among other stipulations.

Republicans have long expressed frustration with environmental advocates for suing the Environmental Protection Agency over missed deadlines or other regulatory requirements laid out in federal environmental statutes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says such moves can “create priorities and rules outside of the normal rulemaking process.”

But while supporters say these bills would infuse transparency into the rulemaking process, opponents of the legislation say these new steps offered would delay government action, waste government resources and wouldn’t alter the ultimate rules offered.

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up the House bill that was introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) “in the coming weeks,” an aide told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail. A spokesman for the Grassley’s Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t respond to Bloomberg BNA’s messages requesting comment.

Grassley and Collins have introduced similar legislation in several past sessions of Congress, including during the last Congress when the House passed its version.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Bloomberg BNA the bill wasn’t on her radar yet. It is supported by groups including the U.S. Chamber and opposed by organizations such as the Environmental Integrity Project.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Leven in Washington at rleven@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

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