Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, others, seeking to end practice
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is testifying before Congress today to try to stop the revolving door of taxpayer money being given to environmental groups, apparently to help in environmental preservation work, and that money is being used by those groups to pay lawyers to sue the federal government, demanding that more and more species be added to the endangered species list, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"And that is not based on science, that is based on litigation," Patterson told 1200 WOAI news. "And we find out now that much of this litigation is funded by the taxpayers."
The House Natural Resources Committee released figures today showing more than $15 million in attorney’s fees by a dozen environmental groups just in the past four years was paid by U.S taxpayers.
Two environmental groups, Wild Earth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity, spent the most on litigation. The Center for Biological Diversity had 117 lawsuits in the works between 2009 and 2012, according to committee figures.
Some attorneys are reimbursed $500 an hour by the taxpayers for filing lawsuits against the same government that provided them the money, and in many cases the same agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Three environmental groups, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, each spent more than $2 million on attorney’s fees during that period.
"Over the years, $15 million in taxpayer funds have been reimbursed to the lawyers who are suing the federal government over issues that have to do with the environment and endangered species," Patterson said.
One of the groups that Patterson is taking issue with, Wild Earth Guardians disputed Patterson's figures.
"The Texas General Land Office stated that the Fish and Wildlife Service 'gave' Wild Earth Guardians $680,000 between 2007 and 2011. This is incorrect," spokesman Mark Salvo said. "The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior granted Wild Earth Guardians $680,000 to support riparian restoration programs in the Southwest. These are competitive grants that Guardians has used to plant hundreds of thousands of cottonwood trees, willows, and other vegetation to restore degraded streams in New Mexico and Arizona."
Wild Earth Guardians was one of the groups that was demanding that officials place the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard, which is native to the Permian Basin of west Texas, on the endangered species list. Patterson and other Texas officials say such a listing would have destroyed the Permian Basin oil and gas industry. Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the species would not be listed as endangered, a decision which may spark yet another lawsuit.
“This is an outrageous abuse of taxpayer money and a misuse of the Endangered Species act. Special-interest groups are forcing federal agencies to make agenda-driven decisions not based on science, but to settle lawsuits,” Patterson said.
"These endangered species listings cause real harm to industries like oil and gas, and as a result, kill jobs when we need them the most."