On Tuesday, July 29, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4315, the Endangered Species Transparency Act with a bipartisan vote of 233-190. This common sense legislation focuses on sensible and specific updates to the Endangered Species Act in the areas of data transparency and species recovery.
The legislation includes the following:
- Require data used by federal agencies for ESA listing decisions to be made publicly available and accessible through the Internet, while respecting state data privacy laws and private property. (Sec. 2 reflects the text of H.R. 4315 as reported)
- Require the federal government to disclose to affected states data used prior to an ESA listing decision and it would require the “best available scientific and commercial data” used by the federal government to incorporate data provided by states, tribes, and local county governments. (Sec. 3 reflects the text of H.R. 4317)
- Require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to track, report to Congress, and make available online the federal taxpayer funds used to respond to ESA lawsuits, the number of employees dedicated to ESA litigation, and attorneys’ fees awarded in the course of ESA litigation and settlement agreements. (Sec. 4 reflects the text of H.R. 4316)
- Prioritize species protection and protect taxpayer dollars by placing reasonable caps on attorneys’ fees to make the ESA consistent with existing federal law. For example, the federal government limits the prevailing attorneys’ fees to $125 per hour in most circumstances, including federal suits involving veterans, Social Security, and disability. But under the ESA, attorneys are being awarded huge sums, in many cases, at a rate much as $600 per hour. (Sec. 5 reflects the text of H.R. 4318)
Click here for more information.
On Thursday, March 27, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04), Rep. Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming-at large), Rep. Randy Neugebauer (TX-19), and Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI-02) introduced four limited bills to improve and update the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The bills are supported by all of the Members of the ESA Congressional Working Group, representing districts across the nation, and are based on the recommendations and findings of their report and input from a broad array of stakeholders, including the Western Governors’ Association. The four bills focus on transparency and species recovery.
- H.R. 4315 (Hastings) , 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act
- H.R. 4316 (Lummis), Endangered Species Recovery Transparency Act
- H.R. 4317 (Neugebauer), State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act
- H.R. 4318 (Huizenga), Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act
Probably the most significant of these bills is H.R. 4316, which requires the USFS, the BLM, and the National Marine Fisheries Service to disclose at the end of each year all expenditures related to any suit brought against the agency under the Endangered Species Act, who filed the suit, the record of decision, how much it cost the agency to defend against the suit, and how much money was paid to whomever filed the suit.
As astonishing as it is, this information is not disclosed today, and the agencies do not even keep records on it! This is a very important bill to get passed.
The federal government has defended more than 570 Endangered Species Act (ESA)-related lawsuits in the last four years alone, costing U.S. taxpayers more than $15 million in attorney fees. This chart shows the top litigants. You will probably recognize some of these names. (Click image for larger view.)
The Equal Access to Justice Act requires the federal government to reimburse legal fees for the prevailing party in lawsuits against the federal government. Environmental organizations are making millions of dollars by filing endless ESA-related lawsuits. When they lose, it costs very little because their attorneys work on spec. When they win, they can claim up to $500 an hour in attorney fees.
For more information, visit the House Natural Resources Committee site. Chairman Doc Hastings and the House Natural Resources Committee are fighting to end this abuse, and save the millions of dollars we pay to these environmental organizations every year to prevent the productive and responsible use of our natural resources.