U.S. Sen. David Vitter today made the following comments after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report requested by Vitter and U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Ok.) showing that millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to fund lawsuits by environmentalist groups against the federal government.
"The GAO report shows that taxpayers have been on the hook for years while "Big Green' trial lawyers have raked in millions of dollars suing the government," said Vitter. "Even worse, because of sloppy record keeping by the EPA and other agencies and a lack of cooperation by the Justice Department, we're not even sure how bad the problem really is. This is unacceptable and I'm going to continue working to demand greater transparency."
More than 40 "Big Green' plaintiffs received millions of dollars in attorneys' fees over the past fifteen years, even as the Department of Justice spent millions of dollars each year defending the EPA in lawsuits filed by outside plaintiffs.
One particularly egregious example is the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group actively litigating against oil and gas exploration. In 2008 alone, the NRDC received $3.5 million in taxpayer money, even as it pursued litigation that would imperil the jobs of tens of thousands of energy industry employees in Louisiana alone.
Additionally, between 2003 and 2010, the Treasury Department paid out approximately $14.2 million from its "Judgment Fund" to environmental plaintiffs who had filed suit against EPA.
Although Vitter and Inhofe had requested a complete record of environmental litigation expenses for the past 15 years, the GAO reported that it was hindered by inconsistent formatting and unreliable data from the EPA and the Department of Justice.
Despite that fact that millions of taxpayer dollars are evidently flowing to outside environmental groups, GAO also reported that Justice Department officials told them they have no plans to improve accountability and transparency.