EPA brings 'sue and settle' ban into 2018, environmentalists concern grows

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- In cold winter months, with rising electric prices, Alaskans turn to wood and coal to heat their homes. But it’s increasing the level of air pollution in towns like Fairbanks.

“When we go and sue we are not trying to tell the agency make a certain decision we’re just telling the agency start the process to make a decision," Joshua Stebbins, Managing Attorney with the Sierra Club said.

The Sierra Club sued the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to address air quality issues in Fairbanks quickly enough. The club credits its action with speeding up the government’s planning process. But now, the EPA will bar groups from suing them.

“No more is this agency going to engage in regulation through litigation and I think engage in abusive practices which we have in the past," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said.

Scott Pruitt said the process he calls ‘sue and settle’ allowed interest groups to bypass the process and ultimately led to bad rules.

But President Clinton’s former EPA Administrator said Pruitt can’t simply opt out of court.

“These rights are provided in the law and people have the right to hold the EPA and Administrator Pruitt accountable for doing its' job," Carol Browner said.

Browner is pushing back against the EPA’s new directive. She believes anyone, from members of the public to environmental groups, has the right to sue the EPA.

The EPA isn’t the only federal agency that’s been forced to act after settling a lawsuit, but they’re the first of Trump’s agencies to argue it’s immune to it. No word yet if any other agencies will take a similar stance.

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