Waste of the Day: Biden Admin Spends Six Times More on ‘Sue-And-Settle’ Than Trump

biden sue and settle
The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Adam Andrzejewski for RealClearInvestigations

Topline: President Joe Biden’s administration has already spent more than $7 million on “sue-and-settle” attorney fees, twice as much as former President Donald Trump’s White House spent in an entire four-year term.

Key facts: “Sue-and-settle” describes instances where a private party sues a government agency, but a settlement is reached outside of court.

Critics say the technique allows the Environmental Protection Agency to create policy through these settlements without Congressional approval, and wastes taxpayer money on litigation.

The government often covers costs for environmental nonprofits suing the EPA, using taxpayer money. In extreme instances, the government spends almost $500,000 on a single case.

“Sue-and-settle” also lets the EPA make decisions about how a particular regulation should be enforced without asking Congress, which former EPA Administrator Scott Pruit described as “collusion.”

Auditors at OpenTheBooks.com found that in just two years, Biden’s administration has already spent more on “sue-and-settle” than any other recent president.

Biden’s administration paid out $3.3 million in litigation fees during its first year. That’s six times more than Trump’s administration spent in its first year, and nearly as much as the $3.6 million spent during Trump’s entire term.

Background: Rather than curb litigation spending, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan issued a memorandum in March 2022 that eliminated many Trump-era EPA policies designed to reduce “sue-and-settle.” The government went on to spend $3.6 million in attorney fees in 2022.

The increase in attorney fees under Biden is consistent with the change between the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. “Sue-and-settle” was used 77 times during Obama’s second term, compared to 28 times in Bush’s second term.

That cost the Obama administration $5.8 million, a number that Biden’s EPA surpassed in just two years. It also allowed the EPA to create 100 new regulations without Congressional oversight, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Reps. Pat Fallon (R-TX) and James Comer (R-KY) sent a letter to Regan on Nov. 14, 2023, requesting documents for an investigation into potential abuses of the policy.

Critical quote: “On March 28, 2022, [Regan] revoked a policy designed to protect the American taxpayer from … sue-and-settle consent decrees and settlement agreements,” Fallon and Comer wrote in their letter. “Because of your action, sue-and-settle abuses appear to have proliferated at the Biden Administration EPA. Sue-and-settle litigation has plagued the federal regulatory system for decades, allowing special interest groups to dictate federal policy through lawsuits without adherence to normal regulatory processes.”

Summary: Biden’s first term as president is ending, but “sue-and-settle” techniques could continue being employed in his potential second term. It remains to be seen whether oversight such as Fallon and Comer’s will force the EPA to change its policies.

The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com

Reprinted with permission from RealClearWire.

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