As government agencies across the spectrum, from state to federal, feel the pinch of the sequester and other declines in revenue, will there be a corresponding rise in litigation? Agencies have already cut back on things like grounds keeping and facilities improvements because of budget cuts, so could these cuts lead to violations of relevant environmental statutes that would create an opening for citizen lawsuits?
The impact of other stressors, like drought, have already led to litigation. Just last month, a Federal District Court judge in Texas, in Aransas Project v. Shaw, held that an historic drought was no excuse for state officials to neglect their responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act to protect the habitat of endangered Whooping Cranes.
As kudzu goes uncut in Georgia, what other species could be choked out? If infrastructure isn’t maintained in California, what pollutants might leak into streams? I feel like these scenarios are a possibility, and I think they could lead to litigation. Who know’s what results those cases would bring, though?
I’ve heard a lot of stories about the stupidity of the sequester, things like it will actually cost the government more money because of liquidation clauses in contracts it will have to break. Whether or not that’s true, I can’t say, but if agencies have to defend lawsuits because of cuts, they won’t save as much as they hoped.
Of course, those agencies could make smart cuts and not endanger the environment and avoid those potential litigation costs.
I hope there’s a moral in there.