Deep-pocketed environmental groups are collecting millions of dollars from the federal agencies they regularly sue under a little-known federal law, and the government is not even keeping track of the payouts, according to two new studies.

Under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), which was signed into law by President Carter in 1980 to help the little guy stand up to federal agencies — litigants with modest means who successfully show government agencies wronged them can get their legal fees back from the taxpayer.

But the act also covers 501(c)(3) nonprofits, including environmental groups that aggressively sue the feds to enforce land-use laws, the Clean Water and Clean Air acts, and laws protecting endangered species. Their lawyers are getting reimbursed at rates as high as $750/hour.

“It was intended for helping our nation's veterans, seniors and small business owners, but environmental groups have hijacked the so-called Equal Access to Justice Act and abused it to fund their own agenda,” says Sen. John Barrasso, (R-WY). “Then you have small businesses and the American taxpayers left to foot the bill.”

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