31 March 2022

EPA Revokes Pruitt’s Anti–“Sue and Settle” Policy

On March 25, 2022, EPA Administrator Michael Regan issued a memorandum titled “Consent Decrees and Settlement Agreements to Resolve Environmental Claims Against the Agency” (the Memorandum). The Memorandum revokes the memo and directive issued by former administrator Scott Pruitt, who had sought to foreclose a practice described by some as “sue and settle,” whereby groups would file a lawsuit that would be resolved by a settlement with EPA that would lead to new regulatory policies.

In revoking the Pruitt policies, Regan argues that a settlement “can be the most practical, economical and efficient path forward” that serves the public interest and preserves limited agency resources. The Memorandum also seeks to rebut claims that “sue and settle” promoted expanded regulation, pointing to Department of Justice policy that disfavors settlements that seek to convert a discretionary duty into a mandatory duty and that such a settlement would need approval from the Associate or Deputy Attorney General. Beyond removing the Pruitt actions, the EPA also announced new procedural steps it says will promote public participation, including posting notice of new suits and settlements and making settlements available for public review and comment.

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