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Green Money: The Perpetual Motion Machine

The fourth method is possibly the worst of the bunch. As Karen Budd-Falen described here in PJM last week ("Radical Environmental Groups Extorting Federal Money with Lawsuit Threats ", PJM 22 Sept 2010), one of the most effective ways in which environmental groups obtain funding is by simply using lawsuits, and the threat of lawsuits, to obtain "settlements."

This has become particularly popular in the Western U.S. Basically, imagine you have a new construction project. A pipeline, let's say. An environmental group then files suit to prevent the project from going forward. That environmental group may have lawyers working for them pro bono, and they often have the implied backing of the Department of the Interior. You look at the lawsuit, consider the legal costs, and consider the opportunity cost of spending years in court before you can proceed -- and you, quite sensibly, offer the environmental group money to go away. As Budd-Falen points out, this was exactly what happened with the Ruby Project, a pipeline intended to take natural gas (a relatively clean, carbon-sparing fuel) from Wyoming to super-green Oregon.

In the settlement, the Ruby Project made no changes to the project, altered no plans.  It just paid the Oregon Natural Desert Association and the Western Watersheds Project $22 million to drop their suit.

You can buy a lot of legal filings with $22 million.

Which, one has to suspect, is the point. The executives, directors, and  attorneys involved may sometimes work pro bono publico -- "for the public good" -- but often the salaries paid and expenses charged seem to involve quite a bit of more personal, private bono.

It becomes a perpetual motion money machine of the environmental activism industry: the lawsuit settlements pay rich salaries and fund further lawsuits, which lead to more settlements, and then to more lawsuits.  Without producing anything of value, or even, as in the Ruby Project, without changing the environmental impact of the project in any way, environmental groups impose their own private "tax" on productive work all over the world -- and the money keeps rolling in.