Interior: Taking a Page from EPA's Playbook

by Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs on January 15, 2016 - 11:04am

Keep It In The Ground protester

The stories of NRDC, the Sierra Club and other members of the environmental lobby basically writing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations are well known. Now the Interior Department seems to be doing the same.

In a blockbuster announcement that shows Interior can play the game of unlawful regulatory overreach just as well as EPA, Secretary Sally Jewell announced a 20-year halt to new coal leasing. This sweeping announcement seems to be just as unlawful as trying to do the same to the oil and natural gas industry, with obvious violations of the Mineral Leasing Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Land Management and Policy Act (FLPMA).

Taking a page out of EPA’s playbook, Interior released a fact sheet accompanying the announcement in which mention is made of an “independent analysis” that “suggests” greenhouse gas emissions from coal, oil and natural gas produced on federal lands could be 28% of U.S. total energy-related emissions. Anyone familiar with EPA’s greenhouse gas inventory knows at first glance the number is ludicrous, but no citation is given for this analysis.

To her credit, Jackie Kershaw, the point of contact on Interior’s press release, immediately responded and reported that the source of the “independent analysis” is The Wilderness Society (TWS). Now any reasonable person knows that The Wilderness Society (TWS) is not a disinterested, independent body; it’s a special interest with a legitimate viewpoint, but one that clearly lobbies for policies that prevent fossil fuel development on public lands. But the analysis, Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Fossil Energy Extracted from Federal Lands and Waters, was prepared for TWS by Stratus Consulting of Boulder, Colorado.

You may think, but TWS found a third-party consulting group, Stratus Consulting, to do the analysis, right? That may be how it appears, but Stratus is anything but a legitimate, credible source. Stratus Consulting has achieved infamy as a source of bogus information used to try to defraud Chevron of $19 billion in Ecuador. A federal judge later found the plaintiffs who sued Chevron used fraud and racketeering, and Stratus Consulting disavowed all its work on behalf of them, but questions remain about the company’s judgement, independence and work quality. Stratus has also been found to use inaccurate and misleading data in its “studies” on methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry. Stratus Consulting is simply not a good source of information on fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions, and anything but an independent source.

Today’s announcement shows that the Interior Department has decided that the environmental lobby is more important than the hard-working Americans who work in the coal industry. Interior is willing to sacrifice a reliable, affordable source of energy on the altar of climate change, never mind that American coal could be used to help provide reliable electricity to the 1.3 billion people across the globe who access, lifting them out of poverty and ill health. And Interior is willing to justify those actions based on deceitful information. 

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