House Resources Committee Holds ESA Hearing

Continuing a series of hearings exploring how to improve and update the Endangered Species Act, the House Natural Resources committee held a hearing Tuesday titled “Taxpayer Funded Litigation, Benefitting Lawyers and Harming Species, Jobs and Schools”. The hearing’s main focus was to explore ESA litigation and how attorneys’ fees are being used by certain organizations to continue endless lawsuits, and to detail where ESA lawsuits have blocked or delayed projects, including an elementary school in San Diego.

In opening remarks, Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) noted more than $15 million has been paid in attorneys' fees in more than 570 Endangered Species Act cases in the last four years and said, “these litigation costs are one of the great weaknesses of the ESA”.  Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the ranking member on the committee, countered that since 2009, $8.7 billion has been paid out of the DOJ judgment fund and "less than two-tenths of 1 percent" were for ESA payments. 

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson (R), who oversees 13 million acres of public lands said the ESA is "categorically broken" as a result of the endless litigation. He noted in Texas, in order to avoid litigation that interested parties now take proactive action, such as payments into a mitigation fund, for protection of species that have not even been listed yet. 

A video and testimony from the hearing can be found here