Four bills that seek to update and improve the Endangered Species Act are set for votes in the House Natural Resources Committee this week. The bills address the lack of transparency and exorbitant legal costs associated with the ESA.
Arizona Representative Paul Gosar is co-sponsoring the legislation, which he says makes “commonsense changes that increase transparency, save taxpayer money, ensure local involvement in species conservation and the designation process, limit the hourly rate attorneys can charge the taxpayers for Endangered Species Act lawsuits and require the federal government to make available to Congress and the public any data it uses to determine which species to list as endangered.”
H.R.4315, the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act, would require federal agencies to make any information used to make an ESA decision available to the public and accessible on the Internet.
H.R.4316, the Endangered Species Recovery Transparency Act, would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to disclose to Congress and online: the amount of taxpayer dollars spent responding to ESA lawsuits; the number of employees utilized by the Fish and Wildlife Service for litigation purposes; and the amount of attorneys fees awarded in ESA lawsuits and settlements.
H.R.4317, the State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act, would require the federal government to divulge to affected states all data it uses to justify ESA decisions. It would also require the government to consult with affected states, tribes and local governments and utilize their data when formulating decisions.
H.R.4318, the Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act, would place maximum amounts on awards of attorneys fees by making the ESA conform to the Equal Access to Justice Act, which limits the prevailing hourly fee for attorneys to $125 per hour.
“For far too long the federal government has been making listing decisions based on secret science and pseudo-science, including studies that do not allow for peer-review of the underlying data. Even more troubling is the fact that attorneys have been making millions of dollars based on frivolous lawsuits associated with the Endangered Species Act and that the federal government doesn’t even know how much money has been paid out. The government shouldn’t have anything to hide if these listings are indeed based on the best available science and there should be local involvement in this process. Most importantly, attorneys shouldn’t be getting rich at the expense of hardworking taxpayers,” concluded Gosar.