An Empirical Analysis of Sue-and-Settle in Environmental Litigation

Note — Volume 100, Issue 7

100 Va. L. Rev. 1545
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This Note aims to expand understanding of the sue-and-settle controversy by providing useful data, analytics and commentary from which courts, policymakers and academics may further their exploration of the process.  This Note applies empirical analysis to sue-and-settle under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act under the current Administration.  It explores the principal charge against the process: that it has the effect of secret, backdoor rulemaking; and, it finds that a more nuanced analysis than that conducted by leading critics of the practice should properly distinguish between two very different uses of the practice—one deleterious, the other beneficial.  Accordingly, the Note concludes that only with the former use should the process give cause for alarm, and that such deleterious uses make up only an extremely small fraction of sue-and-settle cases.  Thus, wholesale destruction of the process is unnecessary; targeted remedies are more appropriate.

In the war over sue-and-settle, this Note does not completely dispel the fog by providing a definitive account of the causation behind the explosive growth in the process.  But it does, however, provide further illumination of the battlefield, better informing the ongoing debate.


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  Volume 100 / Issue 7  

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