Skip to comments.Taxes fund environmental suits - Environmental law firms reap billions in fees to fund lawsuits
Posted on 10/18/2009 4:46:46 PM PDT by girlangler
Taxes fund environmental suits - Environmental law firms reap billions in fees to fund lawsuits
October 15, 2009
The federal government has paid out billions of dollars to environmental groups for attorney fees and costs, according to data assembled by a Cheyenne, Wyoming, lawyer.
Karen Budd-Falen of Budd-Falen Law Offices [email@example.com or 307-632-5105] said the government between 2003 and 2007 paid more than $4.7 billion in taxpayer money to environmental law firms -- and that's just in the lawsuits she tracked.
The actual figure, she said, is far greater.
"I think we only found that the iceberg exists," she said. "I don't think we have any idea how much money is being spent. But I think it's huge."
In some cases, Budd-Falen said, intervening ranchers and farmers are paying for the defense of their farm and ranch practices and -- through their taxes -- paying for the opposing lawyers' attorney fees.
"That money is not going into programs to protect people, wildlife, plants and animals," Budd-Falen said, "but to fund more lawsuits."
Budd-Falen, whose firm regularly represents farms and ranches, for years was aware that nonprofit, tax-exempt environmental law firms were generating sizable revenue from attorney fees paid by the federal government. In June, she submitted a formal request asking the Department of Justice for information on just how much was being spent.
"They said they don't track that information," she said.
After the response, Budd-Falen sat down with a paralegal and started what she said was a time-consuming process of uncovering and compiling the data.
"The numbers were just shocking," she said.
"Somewhere this has to stop, and the government has to be held accountable for the money it's spending," she said.
Budd-Falen documented that between 2000 and 2009, three tax-exempt, non-profit environmental groups -- Western Watersheds Project, Forest Guardians and Center for Biological Diversity -- filed more than 700 cases against the federal government.
"Ranchers and other citizens are being forced to expend millions of their own money to intervene or participate in these lawsuits to protect their way of life when they have no chance of the same attorney-fee recovery if they prevail," Budd-Falen said.
Budd-Falen found in one 15-month-long case that Earthjustice Legal Foundation and the Western Environmental Law Center filed for $479,242 in attorneys' fees.
Brian Smith, a spokesman for Earthjustice, said the foundation counts on those fees in part because it represents groups free of charge. He said the foundation bases its fees on the going rates for attorneys.
Also, he said, if the government was doing its job, the foundation wouldn't be so active.
"If the government had been enforcing the laws during the Bush administration," he said, "there would be no jobs for nonprofit environmental lawyers.
"The environmental movement would love to retire and know that everything is safe, but that is not happening," he said.
Smith said he is confident President Barack Obama's administration will reduce the need for environmental lawsuits.
"The (Environmental Protection Agency) has been very active in the new administration," he said. "That has been encouraging to see how they are stepping in and enforcing the laws."
Budd-Falen, however, said she doubts the steady stream of lawsuits will stop, or even slow.
"Why would you stop filing litigation when you can get that kind of money?" she asked.
"They are not filing these suits to try and protect the environment," she said. "They are filing these suits to make money."
Environmental groups, she said, are eligible for government funds under the Equal Access to Justice Act, which provides for the award of attorney fees to "prevailing parties" in cases against the government.
In order to prevail, under the act, all a group has to do is show a government body changed some policy or program as a result of the suit.
The firms also are accessing government funds through the Judgment Fund, Budd-Falen said,. The fund is a line-item appropriation in the federal budget used for paying claims against the government.
Much of the funds to pay the attorney fees, she said, are being pulled from the budgets of cash-strapped regional offices of natural resource agencies.
"Those budget items ought to be used for range improvement projects, trails or campgrounds, whatever the agency is supposed to be doing," she said.
Budd-Falen in her research also documented salaries paid to top environmental executives. On top of that list was the $446,072 salary paid the president of the Environmental Defense Fund. Second was the $439,327 salary paid the president of the World Wildlife Fund.
Budd-Falen said it is important to bring to light the cost of environmental litigation in the hope Congress might scale it back.
Also, she said, it is important for the public to realize just how much taxpayer money is being spent on these cases.
"We are going to get back to this again and track some more of these dollars," she said, "because I think we ought to know (how much we're spending on this). And if Congress or the Justice Department won't do it, I think somebody has to."
Copyright 2009, Capital Press.
The MSM will NEVER cover this issue.
I know I am missing some freepers with an interest in this one. Also, hope I am posting in the right forum.
It appears that Health Care isnt the only thing that needs Tort reform.
it disgust me, these lawyers who make so much money leeching off society
It's hard to believe that there are viable multimillion dollar lawsuits out there that no law firm will take, but that appears to be the case.
Thank goodness we have the Federal Government to step in.
John Edwards never imagined this scam, but he or his ilk will catch on.
You're fine........I want to post this on a local political site but the first comment posted will be "Bush's fault......"
I guess my argument would be that this type of expenditure from the feds would fall under the radar of the office of the president.
Am I right in this assessment?
This is the main objective of the Democrats left. Make sure no matter what we do they receive money to combat us!
You are likely right about it falling under the radar. However, I want to find out when the “justice funds” were set up, and for what purpose. Who sponsored the legislation to create funds to pay for litigation?
I can see several column ideas in this one.
Thanks for posting this, Girl.
I’ve seen people post that tax dollars are funding lawsuits by enviros in the past but never saw where anyone had researched it like this and nailed it down. This is pathetic and something has to be done to change this. Am book marking your thread.
rocksblues, "insight+" should be your name!
Now we have another link for those ar peta nuts.
Is Rush still a HSU member ? He needs several copies of this.
I don’t buy it that the government doesn’t know how much they have paid out to these law firms. Years ago the IRS required EVERYONE paying ANY amount to ANY lawyer to issue a Form 1099 and send it to the IRS. This is because lawyers (being mostly democrats) don’t pay their taxes. Even when they file tax returns they are fraudulent.
At the very least, with the tax bracket most lawyers are in, the government should get almost half of that money back.
“If the government had been enforcing the laws during the Bush administration,” he said, “there would be no jobs for nonprofit environmental lawyers.”
Love this quote.
These three organizations were filing lawsuits against resource managers LONG before Bush became president.
I agree, somewhere there has to be an accounting of how many tax dollars have been spent paying off these “environmental” organizations. Remember, every election (congress and presidential) these tax free non-profit orgs endorse their candidates. They ALL endorsed Obama, and Clinton, and every democratic in every race since the 1970s.
I was involved with caring for my sick Mom when the news about Rush came out, so didn’t follow it closely.
However, I was amazed he would endorse, or give money to, the HSUS. I thought he’d be a little smarter than that.
Nothing was more infuriating to read than this faux pas on the part of one of the leeches, the parasites.
It never occured to him that the money fairy (the American taxpayer), might have some thoughts on that charecterization.
This link is interesting. Appears Earthjustice specializes in filing lawsuits against govt. organizations, and has close ties to the U.N.
POLITICAL ACTIVITY OF
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS AND
THEIR SUPPORTING FOUNDATIONS
REPORT TO THE CHAIRMAN
SENATOR JAMES M. INHOFE
U.S. SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
“Taxes fund environmental suits - Environmental law firms reap billions in fees to fund lawsuits “
I’m stunned anyone besides a handful of us for 10 years on FR finally said this. The ‘environmental’ movement is one of the biggest taxpayer funded scams out there. Thanks to the ESA and those who refuse to repeal it. All the enviro groups are run by lawyers, they give not one whit for conservation.
Do an internet search on “earthjustice” and “fenton communications”... Fenton is a real piece of Castro-loving “work.”
“.I want to post this on a local political site but the first comment posted will be “Bush’s fault......””
Actually, it was Nixon’s fault. He signed the ESA that provided for ANYone to sue any federal agency to comply with anything they thought might interfere with habitat of an endangered species...will ALL atty. fees by by....US.
Earthjustice is the legal arm of the Sierra Club. Fenton Communications represents the Sierra Club. David Fenton of Fenton Communications was the photographer for the Weather Underground terrorist group and a member of the White Panthers. In the 1980s he was the PR man for the communist regimes of Angola, Grenada & Nicaragua, as well as the radical groups MoveOn.org& Win Without War. His firm was called in to attack the Swift Boat Vets in 2004 by a Democrat donor.
You are right AuntB, it started in the 1970s, the birth of the environmental” movement.
We Tennesseans experienced some of the earliest tests of the ESA, with the famed snail darter and the fight over the Tellico Dam.
Just one week before President Clinton will attend a major conference on ocean policy, a coalition of coastal residents, fishermen and environmentalists has filed a lawsuit against the federal government for failing to prevent overfishing and reduce waste in our nation's fisheries.
The lawsuit challenges regulations published by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) earlier this month to implement key conservation provisions overwhelmingly added by Congress in October 1996 (unanimously in the Senate and by a 10 to 1 margin in the House) to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, our nation's federal fisheries law.
"Eighteen months ago, Congress sent a very clear message to the federal government to stop allowing overfishing and to reduce bycatch -- the killing of unwanted fish caught through indiscriminate fishing practices," stated Steve Roady, director of the Ocean Law Project. "Unfortunately, what Congress offered with one hand, a federal agency is now poised to take away with the other. At a time when the federal government already lists one-third of the nation's marine fish populations whose status is known as overfished or approaching an overfished condition, we are deeply disappointed that NMFS has devised rules with loopholes big enough to drive a factory trawler through," concluded Roady.
Although the federal rules would prohibit overfishing of some fish, under the agency's interpretation the law would allow overfishing when more than one kind of fish are managed together in a group. "This loophole will permit continued overfishing of the very fish populations most in need of protection and rebuilding," said Lisa Speer, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "In addition, the new regulations will allow managers to permit overfishing of one or more fish populations simply by managing those populations together with other, healthier stocks," said Speer.
The problem with these "mixed stock" fisheries is that government managers often are under intense pressure to allow overfishing of the weakest members of the assemblage in order to permit increased fishing of those fish with greater numbers. "Several rockfish populations managed as 'mixed stocks' on the West Coast are in severe decline," stated Bob Eaton, executive director of the Pacific Marine Conservation Council. "Reforming how these fish are managed is the number one challenge to sustaining our fisheries," Eaton continued.
"The overfishing loophole would allow business to continue as usual," Eaton added. "By NMFS' own estimate, conservation measures to recover overfished populations could increase revenues from fishing by $3 billion and add 300,000 new fishing jobs. But those long term gains for our coastal communities won't be realized if the government yields to short-term economic pressure to continue overfishing," Eaton concluded.
This overfishing problem also occurs on the East Coast in the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico regions, where 18 grouper, snapper, and other reef fish species are currently overfished but are included in mixed stock management plans with healthier fish stocks. "The collapse of these stocks will be made almost certain if NMFS allows them to continue to be overfished simply because they have been bundled together with other, healthier stocks for management convenience," stated Alexander Stone, executive director of ReefKeeper International.
"NMFS is contorting a new, sustainable fisheries law to allow one fish species to be overfished if it is part of a multi-species fishery," said Peter Van Tuyn, litigation director of Trustees for Alaska. "Overfishing is, by definition, not sustainable and can have serious consequences for birds, marine mammals and other marine life that compete with fisheries for food," Van Tuyn continued. "In taking this approach, NMFS turns the precautionary management called for by Congress into risk-taking management. Our oceans and coastal communities deserve better."
The second loophole in the NMFS rules involves Congress' directive to reduce bycatch -- the killing and discard of non-target species -- which is a massive problem in several regions of the country. For example, fisheries in the North Pacific off Alaska throw away millions of pounds of dead and dying fish each year; in 1995, this bycatch was as great as the total catch of all other major fisheries off the shores of the United States. In the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery, four pounds of fish are killed in shrimp nets for every pound of shrimp.
"In 1996, Congress clearly found that bycatch was destructive and must be minimized using a common sense approach," stated Dorothy Childers, executive director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. "The rules as written by NMFS, however, could block any requirements to minimize bycatch where economic costs to industry are deemed more important than conservation of the resource," Childers concluded. "This is especially troublesome," noted Bob Irvin, vice president of the Center for Marine Conservation, "since bycatch can include many fish species vital to the functioning of the marine environment."
"The National Marine Fisheries Service has a wide variety of proven and economically sound management tools at its fingertips which can end overfishing, rebuild depleted populations in our nation's valuable mixed stock fisheries, and minimize bycatch," said Doug Hopkins, Program Manager of the Environmental Defense Fund's Oceans Program. "By setting aside no-take areas as marine reserves and by creating strong incentives for fishermen to develop gear and fishing methods that let overfished species escape capture, NMFS can help save the troubled US fishing industry."
The lawsuit was filed last Friday in federal court in Seattle by the Ocean Law Project of the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund on behalf of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Center for Marine Conservation, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pacific Marine Conservation Council, ReefKeeper International, and Trustees for Alaska.
Initiated by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Ocean Law Project is charting a national and regional legal strategy to ensure faithful implementation of the new conservation provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other laws to protect living marine resources. "Many of the problems leading to the current state of crisis in our fisheries could be fixed, if government agencies would follow existing law," stated Joshua S. Reichert, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts' Environment Program. "The Ocean Law Project will give concerned citizens, conservation organizations, and fishing groups access to the legal tools needed to ensure that the federal government will live up to the promise of restoring our fisheries and marine life."
Contact: Steve Roady, Ocean Law Project, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, (2O2) 667-45OO
Valerie Holford, Fenton Communications, (2O2) 822-52OO ----- "Conservation Groups File Suit Against National Marine Fisheries Service" June 1, 1998 http://www.earthjustice.org/news/press/004/conservation_groups_file_suit_against_national_marine_fisheries_service.html
Check out this link:
Earth Justice is the litigation arm of the militant Sierra Club!!! Their former name was Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund!!! The name change occurred in about 1995...
This is not news to the many of us who were shocked to find it in full sway over a decade ago. The "social engineering" that has transpired will already be in place when the Obama administration begins to assert the coming tyranny referred to in the article that begins this thread.
Almost anyone trying to warn the public of this setting up and selling out of American Citizens in the past two decades has been ridiculed and marginalized as "enemies of the environment and of society!"
“The firms also are accessing government funds through the Judgment Fund,”
Another thieving socialist program that Bush and the Republican party refused to eliminate. Because they refuse to cancel these obvious threats to our freedom and private prtoperty, paid for with our tax dollars, people run around here saying it’s iimpossible to cancel liberal programs once they’re passed and funded.
In truth, what’s lacking is representation enthusiastically WILLING to nullify these treasonous programs. Liberals have no problem cancelling military programs. Revenge against their liberal holy cow programs is fair play. And it needs to start - yesterday. Thanks, Bush and congress.
Most of these groups are non-profit corporations. Their annual reports are a matter of public record. That is how I got such damning data on the NRDC. It included not only their federal revenue, but named their major beneficiaries, er "donors."
Yep- lawyers- Screw the goverent AND the little people without a twing of conscience
Amen to that!!
Off With Their Heads!!
That sounds like right about the time the Sierra Club got busted for 20 years' worth of yucky sewage pollution at a property they owned in the Sierras...
Please contact the person who assembled this data and ask her to contact Range Magazine in Carson City, Nevada and share this information with them. They publish quarterly.
Please contact the person who assembled this data and ask her to contact Range Magazine in Carson City, Nevada and share this information with them. They publish quarterly.
I believe that Western Watersheds Project is the group that sued and got the water irrigation stopped to over 2 million acres of viable and productive farm land in the California Central Valley.
If so, the groups leader is Bobby Kennedy Jr-—Maria’s cousin.
The millions of dollars lost in ag production over a non-commercial fish that is NOT even indigenous to the state is obscene. Unemployment in that part of Calif is over 40%.
The also got busted around that time for running under the color of being a 501(c)3 Not-For-Profit Charitable/Educational organization while politically lobbying the hell out of anybody they could intimidate in all levels of our multi-level GovernMental system!!!
I have been trying to open your email, and for some reason I (and other freepers) can’t open our freepmail today.
Yes, I actually read some of that series. A year or two ago I tried to pull it off the net and reread it, but was unsuccessful.
Maybe Glenn Beck, Hannity or Rush can take this info and run with it.
I know decent, well meaning folks who give money to groups like the Sierra Club, etc., thinking they are helping to save wildlife and habitat. They have NO idea what they are supporting.
Who also heads up the NRDC (Natural Resourced Defense Council = another militant litigation group)
I bet none of these groups had as hard a time getting nonprofit status as Tea Party groups did.