Under current law, courts can require the Treasury to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees to plaintiffs who prevail against the federal government in cases brought under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the bill, courts would determine the amount of fees to award in such cases using guidelines established under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). That act caps attorneys’ fees at $125 per hour but allows for adjustments for the cost of living and other factors, such as the limited availability of qualified attorneys for certain cases.
Based on historical information regarding the amounts of attorneys’ fees paid to plaintiffs under the ESA and the EAJA, CBO expects that amounts awarded to attorneys under the bill would be slightly less than amounts awarded under current law; the total decrease in direct spending for those fees would be insignificant.
Because enacting the bill would affect direct spending, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues.
Enacting H.R. 3131 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.
H.R. 3131 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.