Mr. Chairman, this bill is an irresponsible giveaway to the mining industry that has taken enormous profits at American taxpayer expense.
One section in particular disturbs me. Section 205 of the bill eliminates the
awarding of attorneys' fees to litigants bringing successful legal challenges against certain agency actions, like the issuance of a mining permit.
Eliminating the possibility of fee-shifting makes litigation prohibitively expensive for groups and individuals that do not have the deep pockets of large corporate entities.
Indeed, the whole reason fee-shifting exists in the first place is so that a party does not have to be wealthy in order to file a lawsuit.
Justice should be accessible to all, regardless of their individual financial
Eliminating the awarding of attorney's fees means that the traditional parties for these kinds of lawsuits, such as nearby landowners, small business owners, and environmental groups, will no longer be reimbursed for the cost of successfully litigating a claim.
The only reason to eliminate this feeshifting is to discourage parties from filing
these kinds of suits.
And who is the biggest beneficiary of reducing the number of permits challenges?
The permit-holding mining companies, of course.
Since litigation can be extremely expensive, these cash-strapped plaintiffs usually only bring those lawsuits with the most likelihood of success because they literally cannot afford to lose.
Eliminating the awarding of attorneys' fees will increase the predictability of the
permitting process only by stifling access to the courts.
Mr. Chairman, my amendment creates an exception for the awarding of attorneys' fees to successful challenges submitted by either individual citizens or non-profit entities, so that justice in this country is not reserved for only those who can afford the hefty entrance fee.