Common Values. Commons Concerns.

by Tim Wigley, President on July 13, 2016 - 8:34am

Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of our friends in other resource industries. Leaders from oil and natural gas, mining and agriculture have come together because we face similar challenges from government overreach. However, we’re also experiencing success in halting some horrendous policies.

This summer, I’ve been honored to be a guest speaker to the board of directors of the Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, and the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute. In addition, Western Energy Alliance has hosted policy discussions with these groups along with the Colorado Mining Association and our fellow oil and natural gas trade organizations. Through these opportunities we’ve identified a host of issues we face together as well as ways to effectively address them. Here are some of those key areas:

Regulatory Overreach: In just one year’s time, the Alliance responded to 49,226 pages of federal regulations from just the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency. Our friends in mining and agriculture have not been spared the regulatory rod either. We all face new regulations related to access to public lands, wildlife conservation, and air and water quality as the Obama Administration attempts to remake our national environmental policies. Policies like the Waters of the United States (WOTUS), Sage Grouse land use plans and the Clean Power Plan (CPP) are fundamental threats to our industries.

The next occupant of the White House will determine the future success of these natural resource industries. It’s no secret the coal industry has been facing a constant barrage of attacks from the current administration as well as presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who’s openly admitted miners would be forced out of work if her policies in favor of renewable energy are implemented. 

Environmental Activism: Pressure is mounting from radical environmental groups. The Keep-It-in-the-Ground movement is calling for an end to fossil fuel production in our nation and closure of public lands to any development. Resource-based industries must stick together as much as possible because when government is able to shut down one industry, it can shut down others.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a 20-year moratorium on coal leases on public lands back in January. Since then, environmental groups have intensified their campaign against oil and natural gas. As we’ve documented in our blog, they’ve held numerous protests across the West calling on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to implement a similar moratorium on our industry. 

Urban-Rural Divide:  Over the past 20 years populations in western states have boomed as people move from both coasts to urban and suburban communities in our region. Although people are drawn to the beautiful environment and outdoor fun, they simply have less connection with the land. That leads to serious policy implications.

For instance, lots of urbanites don’t like seeing cattle on federal lands because of misplaced concerns with water impacts and over-grazing. In response, cattlemen have to defend their rights to access public lands more than ever as the BLM tries to accommodate public sentiment. This mirrors the fight we’re facing in the oil and natural gas industry as BLM has severely limited the number of leases available on public lands in response to pressure from anti-fossil fuel activist groups.

There is good news in all of this, however!

In its rush to increase regulations on resource industries, the Obama Administration has left itself extremely vulnerable. Federal agencies are overstepping their boundaries by claiming authority they don’t have, failing to appropriately heed substantive public comments to new rules, and crafting rules so poorly they’re nearly impossible to implement. The courts have woken up and have overturned or halted several regulations.

Our victory in stopping federal regulation of fracking is one great example. The Obama-appointed judge strongly rebuked BLM for asserting authority Congress did not give it. His written decision was a constitutional seminar reminding the agency how the federal government works. Other examples where the courts have limited overreaching regulations include the recent stay from the U.S. Supreme Court of the Clean Power Plan and several states’ success in blocking the Waters of the U.S. rule in federal court.

One of my goals has been to work closely with our other resource industry friends. In response to these threats, each industry individually and collectively needs to focus on how to break through to policymakers and consumers to effectively promote the fundamental value of the products we make. We must also be ready to seek remedy from the courts when appropriate.

The alternative is to leave it to the agencies to continue picking winners and losers. 

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