Industry representatives have complained that from time to time that EPA will enter into settlements of lawsuits brought by environmental interest groups that have the effect of excluding industry representatives from participating in the final settlement. Usually these lawsuits involve claims that EPA has failed to take a regulatory action–usually a new rule–in accordance with a statutorily-imposed deadline. The GAO was asked to investigate the procedures employed by EPA to settle such lawsuits.
Last December, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, “Impact of Deadline Suits on EPA’s Rulemaking is Limited“. Several members of Congress expressed their concerns to the GAO that EPA’s practice of settling lawsuits by promising to conduct rulemakings when a statutory deadline has come and gone–principally in Clean Air Act matters–meant that the public had little or no opportunity to be involved in the development of significant rules. The GAO investigated the procedures employed by EPA and DOJ and concluded that the impact of this practice was negligible, and the process allowed the public to file comments during the pendency of the consent decree/settlement. The report was released as GAO-15-34 (December (2014).