Environmental groups milking climate change

Budd-Falen

By KAREN BUDD FALEN

For the Capital Press

Although world leaders were recently in Copenhagen to save the planet from global warming, the federal government has already paid millions in tax dollars to environmental groups that litigate over global warming.

These cases are not about whether global warming is a scientific fact, but over timelines and procedures that seem to be impossible for the federal agencies to comply with. Environmental groups file suits over procedural failures in considering whether global warming exists and are getting paid handsomely to do it.

According to a Climate Change Litigation Survey by the Congressional Research Service published in April 2009, environmental litigation assuming climate change exists has blossomed in the last six years.

One of the first statutes that shows up on court dockets is the Clean Air Act. The seminal case regarding whether the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas was started as a petition for rulemaking filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA only had to consider whether greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide were air pollutants; the court did not mandate that they were.

Environmental groups and the federal government have agreed to "negotiate" how much in taxpayer dollars the environmental groups will be paid for those cases. These negotiations will take place outside any public process. In one of the cases, the federal government simply decided not to fight the merits of the case and the environmental groups will still be paid for suing the government.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the Center for Biological Diversity seems to have "spearheaded" the effort to use the Endangered Species Act to enforce its global warming beliefs. The center has a list of 350 species it believes should be listed under the ESA to protect them from greenhouse gases and global warming. Just between Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, New Mexico, and Washington, the center has amassed $6,709,467 in attorney fees, all paid by taxpayers.

The vast majority of these cases were suits over the failure of the federal government to "timely" respond to the center's ESA listing petitions. Most litigation is only over the timing of the federal governments' decisions or the process used to make the decisions.

Once a species is listed under the ESA, environmental groups then use the National Environmental Policy Act process to further their view of global warming. They use litigation to claim that the federal agencies are not "considering" things like whether a power plant operating with Wyoming coal in Kentucky would emit greenhouse gas that impacts polar bears in Alaska.

That is not a farfetched example. Already, the groups have mounted this type of litigation in California.

Attorney fee awards to environmental groups is big business and is likely to get bigger as they push the global warming agenda. According to Western Legacy Alliance's research, in just 18 states, 13 environmental groups have amassed attorney fees of $30 million, plus $4 million from businesses.

Additionally, groups were "awarded" over $500,000 in "donations" based upon settlement agreements. The vast majority of these cases are ESA cases, and there are more to come.

Recently, the WildEarth Guardians filed a single petition to list 206 species under the ESA, and the Center for Biological Diversity has filed a petition to list 225 more species.

There is absolutely no way that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can make a "scientific" finding on all 431 species within the 90-day timeframe mandated by the ESA, making litigation -- and the payment of attorney fees -- inevitable and profitable.

The world's governments may have been discussing global warming in Copenhagen, but it is already being enforced in the United States, not based on scientific data, but on procedural statutes and payment of millions of dollars in attorney fees. Western Legacy Alliance is poised and prepared to continue to bring these tactics to light.

I can feel the cooldown already.

Attorney Karen Budd Falen of Cheyenne, Wyo., represents the the Western Legacy Alliance.

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