Groups Oppose the Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017 (H.R. 469)
Oct. 23, 2017 | Download PDF
On behalf of our millions of members and supporters nationwide, our organizations urge you to oppose the so-called “Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017” (H.R. 469). This bill will undermine the enforcement of federal laws and impede the resolution of various consumer protection, anti-discrimination, environmental, and public health cases before our federal courts.
H.R. 469 targets consent decrees and settlement agreements involving congressionally mandated federal agency actions. These agency actions in many instances have the purpose of protecting civil rights, health, safety, and the environment. H.R. 469 prescribes a host of burdensome – and, in some cases, ambiguous – steps for courts and parties relating to such consent decrees and settlements that would favor continued litigation over settlement.
Today, if the government is sued for missing a deadline (or other non-discretionary requirement) it may enter into settlement discussions with the party that sued it, because there are no legal defenses for missing a statutory deadline and the violation can be easily confirmed by looking at a calendar. The parties then negotiate the date of the new deadline under the supervision of a federal judge who must review and approve any agreement. H.R. 469 establishes a prolonged process of publication, intervention, and court-supervised mediation for these types of settlements. This wastes judicial, individuals, and local governments’ resources, while wealthy corporations are empowered to perpetuate violations of federal rules. Such hurdles to settlements conflict directly with the expressly stated and longstanding policy of the federal judiciary system to favor compromise and the settlement of disputes in order to make best use of limited judicial resources.
The consent decrees and settlement agreements at issue do not determine the substance of agency rules. Rather, such agreements simply seek to enforce mandatory statutory and procedural duties (such as deadlines enacted by Congress). In fact, a December 2014 Government Accountability Office report surveyed settlements over deadlines for major U.S. Environmental Protection Act rulemakings and found that the settlements did not influence the substantive results. [United States Government Accountability Office. (December 2014). Environmental Litigation: Impact of Deadline Suits on EPA’s Rulemaking Is Limited. (Publication No. GAO-15-34)] Furthermore, all public notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and the individual laws at issue still apply when an agency undertakes the substantive action for which a deadline was missed. Parties and non-parties alike are provided with numerous opportunities to provide input in advance of the rules being finalized.
H.R. 469 seeks to allow intervening parties an opportunity to obstruct and delay agency requirements to follow federal law, when these parties already have a reasonable opportunity to intervene under federal law. The bill attempts to give third parties the power to obstruct and delay the enforcement of federal law which will harm plaintiff corporations, state and local governments, nonprofit groups, and individuals alike, when their interests have been harmed by illegal federal agency actions or inactions.
We strongly oppose this latest attack on citizens’ ability to enforce our nation’s safeguards and we respectfully urge you to vote against H.R. 469 when it comes to the House floor.
Alaska Wilderness League
Alliance for Justice
American Association for Justice
Bayou City Waterkeeper
Black Warrior Riverkeeper
Blue Water Baltimore
Boulder Creek, A Waterkeeper Alliance Affiliate
California Coastkeeper Alliance
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Justice & Democracy
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Clean Water Action
Coastal Carolina Riverwatch
Consumer Federation of America
Coosa River Basin Initiative
Crystal Coast Waterkeeper
Defenders of Wildlife
Economic Policy Institute Policy Center
Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc.
Endangered Species Coalition
Environment in the Public Interest
Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Law & Policy Center
Friends for Our Riverfront
Friends of the Earth
Gulf Restoration Network
Hip Hop Caucus
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Iowa Environmental Council
League of Conservation Voters
Lower Mississippi River Foundation
Lower Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER Association
National Association of Consumer Advocates
National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)
National Consumers League
National Employment Law Project
National Parks Conservation Association
NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL
North Sound Baykeeper
People For the Americsn Way
Potomac Riverkeeper Network
Prairie Rivers Network
Progressive Congress Action Fund
Quad Cities Waterkeeper Inc.
San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper
Save EPA Ann Arbor
Southern Environmental Law Center
State Innovation Exchange (SIX)
Tennessee Clean Water Network
The Impact Fund
The Wilderness Society
White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance