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Federal Act Could Limit Environmental Lawsuits, Awards
The Sierra County Sentinel ^ | 6/24/11 | Etta Pettijohn

Posted on 06/30/2011 5:49:28 PM PDT by girlangler

Federal Act Could Limit Environmental Lawsuits, Awards

By Etta Pettijohn

The practices of two environmental groups best known for suing federal agencies to end logging, grazing, mining on public land and to hamstring wildlife agencies could be halted if legislation sponsored by western Congressional members becomes law.

The Government Litigation Savings Act, introduced to Congress in late May, would amend the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). Supporters say it would not, as some critics of the measure claim, reverse the opportunity for disadvantaged plaintiffs to recoup legal fees as recourse against government actions.

The EAJA, passed in 1980, was intended to reimburse legal costs of private citizens with a net worth of less than $2 million, or small non-profit organizations with a net worth of less than $7 million, that successfully sued the federal government for non-compliance with federal laws.

Several western lawmakers have co-sponsored the amendment to the EAJA, including New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce. It was introduced by Wyoming Republicans Sen. John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis.

The proposed amendment would limit the use of EAJA funds to those who can prove a personal monetary or property interest, personal injury, or are likely to suffer irreparable harm.

Under the act, reimbursement of these fees would be curtailed if the claimant has unreasonably protracted the proceedings, been oppressive or acted in bad faith, or has utilized attorneys pro bono. Moreover, all attorneys’ fees would be capped at $175 per hour, and limited to $200,000 for any single lawsuit. No more than three EAJA awards in any calendar year would be awarded to the same claimant.

Moreover, all EAJA payments would be reported annually, and a searchable database would identify the amount and to whom the funds were paid (including sealed settlement agreements), the agency sued, hourly rates of expert witnesses and related costs, the names of presiding judges in each case, and their basis for finding the position of the agency concerned was not substantially justified.

The amendment would cap attorney fees to groups with a net worth of less than $7 million.

When Congress stopped tracking and reporting the payments under EAJA in 1995, Rep. Pearce and other supporters of the measure say the abuse by wealthy environmental organizations began, creating a cottage industry that challenged all sorts of traditional uses of public lands, and raking in millions for the groups.

“The Equal Access to Justice Act is a good, important law, designed to protect the disadvantaged by promising a legal recourse for people who need protection from actions of the federal government,” Pearce told the Sentinel this week. “Unfortunately, it has been recklessly abused by environmental lawyers seeking to make a profit by attacking our way of life.

“The proposal I am supporting is intended to restore the EAJA to its original intent: to empower the underprivileged, not to line the pockets of lawyers with political agendas. We need to make sure that people with legitimate claims against the government are not being pushed to the backburner by those who would abuse our laws.”

According to a recent article in the New York Times, two environmental groups, the Tucson, AZ-based Center for Biological Diversity and Santa Fe-headquartered WildEarth Guardians, are among the leading organizations abusing the system. Together they have filed more than 100 lawsuits, involving 1,100 species, against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) over delays in listing under the federal Endangered Species Act since 2007.

Once a petition is filed, the agency must determine if it warrants further investigation within 90 days, a deadline most often missed because of case workloads.

The Times’ article said the Center for Biological Diversity boasts 20 staff attorneys in more than a dozen offices across the country. The center raised $7.5 million in 2009, according to its annual report, including $4.8 million from membership donations and $1.2 million in what it calls “legal returns.”

The Karen Budd-Falen Law Firm in Wyo., which is researching the payments for the Western Legacy Alliance, found that $37 million in taxpayer money has been distributed to successful litigants under EAJA since 2002, in what attorney Karen Budd-Falen says is a rampant abuse of a system in desperate need of fixing.

“I absolutely believe that these cases are more about gathering attorneys fees than ‘damages,’” Budd-Falen told Fox News back in 2009. “There is no evidence that one dollar of these fees awarded to any group has gone into on-the-ground habitat or species protection actions.

“A majority of environmental groups use in-house attorneys, but they are requesting private attorney rates, in some cases up to $600 per hour. These fees make money for the organizations to be used to fund more litigation.”

Winston rancher Laura Schneberger, vice president of the Gila Livestock Breeders Association, knows firsthand the difficulty of fighting obscure federal rulings that can shut down many traditional user activities on public and private land. The U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land

Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—all agencies with an enormous presence in Sierra County—are among the most targeted by these lawsuits.

“I think the law (EAJA) was intended for those who couldn’t afford the legal fees to have an equal chance to litigate against bad federal judgments,” said Schneberger. “It was not designed to pad the pockets of those already wealthy.”

While these organizations are raking in millions to kick ranchers and the public off of “public” land, groups like the 450-member Gila Livestock Breeders Association must “hold bake sales, dances, whatever we can to raise funds to travel across the region to represent ourselves in these issues, including hiring legal representation,” Schneberger said.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Outdoors
KEYWORDS: environment; government; legislation; outdoors

1 posted on 06/30/2011 5:49:37 PM PDT by girlangler
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To: proud_yank; Grammy; Flycatcher; jazusamo; billhilly

Hi guys,

I’m back, after a year. It’s been a crazy one for me, but I am writing for several newspapers, back to work and happy. I spend half a year in New Mexico, and the other half in Tennessee (or wherever I can find hungry fish).

Long story. But here is one of my articles.


2 posted on 06/30/2011 5:53:50 PM PDT by girlangler (Fish Fear Me)
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To: girlangler
Cool, loser pays would be a good step, and plaintiff always pays (win or lose) for obstruction suits, would be even better.

Me, I prefer dynamite fishing.

3 posted on 06/30/2011 6:06:41 PM PDT by Navy Patriot (Holy flippin' crap, Sarah rocks the world!)
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To: Navy Patriot

LOL. Oh that’s a pastime in Tennessee.

Anyway this bill is a step in the right direction.


4 posted on 06/30/2011 6:09:01 PM PDT by girlangler (Fish Fear Me)
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To: Navy Patriot

LOL. Oh that’s a pastime in Tennessee.

Anyway this bill is a step in the right direction.


5 posted on 06/30/2011 6:09:10 PM PDT by girlangler (Fish Fear Me)
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To: girlangler

You would need a 60 senators and Obama’s signature. The chance for the former is slim and for the later it is null.


6 posted on 06/30/2011 6:12:29 PM PDT by nerdwithagun (I'd rather go gun to gun then knife to knife.)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin; SJackson; george76; CedarDave

Wow, it’s taking me a while to remember all the old freeper friends names, since it’s been so long since I freped.


7 posted on 06/30/2011 6:13:02 PM PDT by girlangler (Fish Fear Me)
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To: girlangler
Welcome back, it's good to see you. :-)

Great article and it's about time something is done about the abuse of these enviro-nazis groups and their never ending frivolous lawsuits.

Very happy to see the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians will be deprived of public funds if this passes. Hopefully this will cost Defenders of Wildlife also, they're one of the worst of the animal rights crowd.

Keep that fear embedded in those fish, Girl, the catchin’ will too easy for you if they lose it. LOL!

8 posted on 06/30/2011 6:22:15 PM PDT by jazusamo (His [Obama's] political base---the young, the left and the thoughtless: Thomas Sowell)
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To: nerdwithagun

yep. nil.

but at least this is lighting a candle.
what a scam. the Government actually helps them sue and take taxpayer money, in the name of “helping the environment”.

tar and feathers is too good for them.


9 posted on 06/30/2011 6:30:07 PM PDT by Elendur (the hope and change i need: Sarah / Colonel West in 2012)
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To: nerdwithagun; Elendur

The 2012 election isn’t that far off. This can serve as a feeler if nothing else and it’s definitely a step in the right direction.


10 posted on 06/30/2011 6:34:44 PM PDT by jazusamo (His [Obama's] political base---the young, the left and the thoughtless: Thomas Sowell)
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To: girlangler

Hey gal......

East Tennessee and New Mexico. What could be better.

Great piece. That is sorely needed to end the enviro tyranny.


11 posted on 06/30/2011 6:37:25 PM PDT by bert (K.E. N.P. N.C. D.E. +12 ....( History is a process, not an event ))
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To: bert; MHGinTN

writer ping


12 posted on 06/30/2011 6:38:47 PM PDT by bert (K.E. N.P. N.C. D.E. +12 ....( History is a process, not an event ))
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To: jazusamo

The 2012 election isn’t that far off.
///
great point.
and as i said, this is lighting a candle,
and helping more people to learn about this scam.

thanks for the happy reminder.
after another year of Obama,
it will be a landslide of historic proportions!


13 posted on 06/30/2011 6:40:03 PM PDT by Elendur (the hope and change i need: Sarah / Colonel West in 2012)
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To: girlangler
Kudos, m'Lady. Well done! ... Glad to see you're doing what your talents improve. As the saying is, 'You go, Girl!'

Travel safely, Lady.

14 posted on 06/30/2011 6:55:17 PM PDT by MHGinTN (Some, believing they can't be deceived, it's nigh impossible to convince them when they're deceived.)
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To: bert

Appreciate the ping ...


15 posted on 06/30/2011 6:56:15 PM PDT by MHGinTN (Some, believing they can't be deceived, it's nigh impossible to convince them when they're deceived.)
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To: girlangler

No chance Urkel will sign this nor that it will get a vote in the Senate.


16 posted on 06/30/2011 7:07:14 PM PDT by arrogantsob (Why do They hate her so much?)
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To: arrogantsob
No chance Urkel will sign this nor that it will get a vote in the Senate.

I'll bet the House doesn't even pass it.

17 posted on 06/30/2011 8:07:19 PM PDT by Doe Eyes
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To: girlangler
Fantastic to have you back!

I love to hear that you're writing again (and it's a great piece too).

It's a nice feeling utilizing your God-given talents, isn't it? And by talents, I mean fishing and writing! Lol!

18 posted on 06/30/2011 8:33:40 PM PDT by Flycatcher (God speaks to us, through the supernal lightness of birds, in a special type of poetry.)
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To: Flycatcher

Yes, it’s good to be back. I have missed all my friends here.

I had to take a journey myself — a flight — to find myself after being surrounded by a lot of sickness and death. I just needed a break, and I have found healing in New Mexico. I go for a mineral bath along the Rio Grande a couple of times a week, then swim laps for about two hours after that. It is healing.

I love the different hummingbird species here, and four species of dove, the gamble quail. I am really enjoying this. We need rain, though. Looking forward to the “monsoon.”


19 posted on 06/30/2011 8:43:26 PM PDT by girlangler (Fish Fear Me)
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To: Flycatcher

Yes, it’s good to be back. I have missed all my friends here.

I had to take a journey myself — a flight — to find myself after being surrounded by a lot of sickness and death. I just needed a break, and I have found healing in New Mexico. I go for a mineral bath along the Rio Grande a couple of times a week, then swim laps for about two hours after that. It is healing.

I love the different hummingbird species here, and four species of dove, the gamble quail. I am really enjoying this. We need rain, though. Looking forward to the “monsoon.”


20 posted on 06/30/2011 8:43:41 PM PDT by girlangler (Fish Fear Me)
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To: girlangler
New Mexico is definitely a very pretty state. Great birds too. You'll have to check out Bosque Del Apache on the Rio Grande, if you haven't already. The Silver City area is nice too. Just watch out for introduced Mexican gray wolves in the Gila wilderness area! But you know the rule: SSS!

Oh, did you know the New Mexico state bird is the greater roadrunner! You gotta like a state that elevates a cuckoo to state bird, dontcha?

All the best, girlangler, and hope to hear more from you in the future. Enjoy the Land of Enchantment!

21 posted on 06/30/2011 8:50:00 PM PDT by Flycatcher (God speaks to us, through the supernal lightness of birds, in a special type of poetry.)
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To: Flycatcher

Last winter I had the chance to see a roadrunner beside the road.

And I am VERY close to the refuge you speak of.

I wrote an article already about the wolves, published it in a local newspaper a few week s ago.

The Gila is wonderful, I am leaving Saturday for Catron County — a very fruitful place for story ideas (LOL).

Life is good, no doubt. I didn’t ask for this, but will do the best I can when faced with where life takes me.


22 posted on 06/30/2011 9:01:06 PM PDT by girlangler (Fish Fear Me)
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To: girlangler

Welcome back.

It is good to hear from you. We have missed you.

Excellent article.


23 posted on 06/30/2011 11:41:29 PM PDT by george76 (Ward Churchill : Fake Indian, Fake Scholarship, and Fake Art)
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To: george76

Thanks george. I have missed all my freeper friends too. I’ve been incredibly busy, had to get my house ready to sell (I’ll need lots of luck with that one), and back working for several newspapers.


24 posted on 07/01/2011 8:03:27 AM PDT by girlangler (Fish Fear Me)
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To: All

Thank you ll for the nice comments. Hope you all have a great and safe 4th. Remember those who have given all for us so that we enjoy the freedoms we do.


25 posted on 07/01/2011 8:05:16 AM PDT by girlangler (Fish Fear Me)
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To: girlangler

How wonderful to hear from you my friend!!! I had just checked on your posting history the other day to see if I had missed you along the way.

You sound happy. I am glad. And glad you are writing again.


26 posted on 07/01/2011 9:43:44 AM PDT by Grammy
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To: Grammy

Was going to email you tonight. It’ll take a novel to tell you what all has been going on. Yes, I’m very happy and working hard on being healthy. I just finished swimming a mile and am exercising my brain again writing.

Hope you and yours are doing okay.

I’ll email later. It’s always good to hear from you.


27 posted on 07/01/2011 12:19:04 PM PDT by girlangler (Fish Fear Me)
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To: jazusamo

Unfortunately all the creeks here in New Mexico are dry (LOL). They call them aroyos. Can’t find a fish in them!!!

Glad to be back and to hear from you Jaz.


28 posted on 07/01/2011 12:23:21 PM PDT by girlangler (Fish Fear Me)
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