U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) supported H.R. 712, the Sunshine for Regulatory Degrees and Settlements Act, which passed the house today. This bill is aimed at curbing so called "Sue and Settle" abuses in the regulatory system, whereby an outside entity, oftentimes a special interest group, sues a regulatory agency, and the agency agrees to a settlement that would accomplish the agency's regulatory goals without going through the normal regulatory process.
"Sue and settle lawsuits represent the worst of our federal government, " Palmer said. "Sue and settle lawsuits make our already out-of-control regulatory regime worse by removing the ability of most Americans threatened by the regulation to have any input in the process. The EPA in particular has abused this process, choosing not to defend itself in 60 lawsuits from special interest advocacy groups, which resulted in more than 100 new regulations.
"While I believe this bill should go further, it does take steps to improve the process and invites more transparency and accountability into this shadowy process. Congress should take this as a first step toward further changes in our out-of-control regulatory regime."
H.R. 712 would not allow for any consent decree to be filed until after interested parties have had the opportunity to intervene in the legislation and join settlement negotiations. It would also require the Attorney General, or other relevant agency head, to certify that he has approved relevant consent decrees. The bill also requires courts to take into account public comments and compliance with regulatory process statutes when approving consent decrees.