Western Energy Alliance engages in litigation when necessary to achieve its policy goals and a predictable, reasonable regulatory environment. In recent years the Alliance has successfully challenged and overturned unlawful, overreaching regulations from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Currently, our legal efforts continue to focus on overturning redundant regulations and defending BLM leasing and permitting against challenges from activist environmental groups whose ultimate goal is to eliminate all oil and natural gas development on public lands.
Defending Leasing: BLM’s onshore leasing program is facing a comprehensive assault from Keep-It-in-the-Ground groups. Western Energy Alliance has intervened in three lawsuits challenging BLM lease sales from 2015-2018 for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The lawsuits assert that BLM failed to adequately analyze the impacts of leasing on climate change and the Greater Sage-Grouse, among other issues. As intervenors in these lawsuits, we’re able to articulate how plaintiffs misrepresent the federal onshore process and explain why the allegations don’t withstand legal scrutiny. We bring a strong legal defense with some of the best natural resources attorneys in the country able to provide a robust defense that differs from the Department of Justice’s procedural approach. And as a trade association we represent the small, independent companies who aren’t otherwise able to individually defend their leases against deep-pocketed environmental groups.
Defending Fracking in California: Recent activity in California highlights how the Alliance played a key role in defending the process of hydraulic fracturing on public lands. In 2013, environmental groups sued BLM over leases issued under two Resource Management Plans (RMP) newly completed in 2012. The basis of the claim was that BLM had failed to analyze the impacts of hydraulic fracturing and, therefore, the leases must be canceled.
Western Energy Alliance filed an amicus brief highlighting that more NEPA analysis, not lease cancellation, is the proper remedy when a court finds an agency hasn’t done adequate NEPA analysis. The court relied heavily on our amicus brief in the 2014 ruling remanding the RMPs back to BLM for further analysis. Without Western Energy Alliance at the table, it’s likely the 2013 leases would have simply been canceled. The delays caused by the environmental groups’ litigation resulted in seven years of delay on the RMPs, which instead of being finalized during the Obama Administration, are now being finalized by the Trump Administration.
BLM Fracking Rule: In 2016, IPAA, Western Energy Alliance, the Ute Indian Tribe and the states of Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado and Utah achieved an important victory when the U.S. District Court for Wyoming ruled that states, not BLM, have authority to regulate fracking. The ruling tossed out BLM’s hydraulic fracturing rule that would have added over $110,000 to the cost of each new well without providing any new environmental protection that wasn’t already being ensured through state regulation. An appeal was dismissed by the Tenth Circuit Court, and in 2018 BLM finalized a rule rescinding the original 2015 rule. Environmental groups and the Attorneys General of California and New Mexico have sued in San Francisco to overturn the rescission rule, but IPAA and Western Energy Alliance have preserved the ability to reinitiate our challenge in Wyoming should the rescission rule be overturned.
BLM Venting and Flaring Rule: Less than an hour after BLM announced a new waste prevention rule in 2016, Western Energy Alliance and IPAA filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming. The court denied our motion for preliminary injunction, but approved a stay of compliance once BLM announced it was rewriting the rule in 2018. The revised rule, finalized in November 2018, reoriented the rule back in line with BLM’s jurisdiction under the Mineral Leasing Act by removing the Clean Air Act-like provisions, which are the purview of EPA and the states. As with the BLM fracking rule, environmental groups, California and New Mexico challenged the revised rule in the San Francisco district court, and Western Energy Alliance/IPAA have preserved the ability to pursue our challenge in Wyoming should the revised rule be overturned.