House Republicans Introduce ESA Settlement Reform Bill

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On March 21, 2013, Representatives Bill Flores (R-TX), John Carter (R-TX), K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), Mac Thornberry (R-TX), and Steve Pearce (R-NM) introduced a bill (pdf) to curtail allegedly excessive Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuits brought by environmental groups. The bill would prohibit courts from approving ESA settlements, unless states and counties that would be affected by the settlements have also given their approval. Also aimed at limiting the amount the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) can spend on ESA lawsuits, the bill would prevent litigants from recovering legal fees.

According to Rep. Flores, the bill is intended to “protect American citizens from the burdensome and costly regulatory impact of closed-door litigation settlements between special interest groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” Similarly, Rep. Conaway stated: “This legislation would … require that local communities have the opportunity to veto any settlements between the [S]ervice and these environmental groups.”

The bill was introduced as companion legislation to Senate Bill 19, which, as we reported here, was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn in February.

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