Accusations by Western lawmakers that environmentalists are abusing a 30-year-old law designed to help offset the costs of litigation against the government have met a strong defense by advocacy group leaders who say such claims are patently false. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Poor government oversight has allowed advocacy groups to squander taxpayer money on frivolous lawsuits that drain the budgets of federal land management agencies without the knowledge of the public or Congress, a group of Western lawmakers told Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter released this week.
Specifically, members of the Congressional Western Caucus charge that environmental groups have used the Equal Access to Justice Act to win back millions of dollars in attorney fees for lawsuits filed against the Forest Service and other federal agencies.
Caucus members have "great concern about the apparent abuse of EAJA by certain organizations, and the lack of accountability and transparency in the operation and distribution of funds under EAJA that have contributed to this abuse," says the letter, signed by 23 Republican senators and representatives.
But environmental groups, while endorsing recommendations for greater public access to EAJA records, said the research supporting the claims, done by a Wyoming lawyer and former Interior special assistant in the Reagan administration, is spurious and greatly misrepresents the share of funding they receive under the act and a similar program called the Justice Fund.