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Sue and Settle: The Strategy Undermining American Production

Sue and Settle: The Strategy Undermining American Production

Mar 1, 2024

Sue and Settle: The Strategy Undermining American Production

It has come to light that America's industrial foundation is facing a significant threat from a legal strategy known as "sue and settle." This tactic, employed by environmental groups, has profound implications for the nation's economy and autonomy, particularly in sectors crucial to domestic production such as energy, mining, and manufacturing.

Two years ago, the Biden administration took a controversial step by rendering 4 million acres of federal land inaccessible for oil and gas exploration. This area, surpassing the size of Connecticut, was celebrated by environmental organizations for marking a stride towards liberation from fossil fuel dependency. The decision was expected to foster job creation, economic prosperity, and reduce reliance on foreign oil, which has historically entangled the United States in Middle Eastern conflicts. However, this move was not the result of legislative action or public discourse but the outcome of a lawsuit settlement with Wild Earth, an environmental legal group.

The method of "sue and settle" allows environmental law firms to initiate lawsuits that, given a sympathetic administration, result in quick settlements that bypass the legislative process and public input. The implications of such a practice have been devastating especially for the mining industry, increasing the nation's dependence on foreign minerals, particularly from China and countries with adversarial relations.

Tom Pyle of the American Energy Alliance has voiced concerns that this has led to the "refilling of the swamp" with unelected officials overriding the democratic will. The National Association of Mining indicates that the United States now depends on imports for over half of its usage of 51 critical minerals, with complete reliance on 15 essential minerals, a situation exacerbated by such lawsuits.

China, meanwhile, has leveraged its dominant position in refining critical minerals like copper, lithium, and cobalt, using this advantage as a geopolitical tool by imposing embargoes on non-compliant nations. This monopolistic control is contrasted by the United States' abundance of untapped resources, valued at $6.2 trillion, and stricter environmental standards that could ensure cleaner production if allowed to be developed.

Recent events, such as the discovery of an unexpectedly large deposit of rare earth minerals by American Rare Earths in Wyoming and the blockage of a clean fertilizer potash mine in Utah, underscore the tangible consequences of environmental lawsuits. These roadblocks not only hinder the extraction of critical resources but also threaten the viability of the domestic manufacturing sector, with new ambient air particle rules potentially putting 1 million manufacturing jobs at risk according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

The broader narrative suggests an America constrained by its own environmental policies, at the expense of economic vitality and global influence. The solution, as suggested by commentators, may lie in a fundamental shift in leadership that prioritizes both environmental responsibility and economic pragmatism.


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