Judicial Activism Strikes Again, Western Caucus Slams Wyoming Leasing Decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, members of the Western Caucus issued statements slamming U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia Rudolph Contreras' decision in the case of WildEarth Guardians v. Zinke which has halted responsible energy production and jobs on more than 300,000 acres of land in Wyoming.

For Immediate Release

Date: March 21, 2019

Contact: Emilio Navarrete


Judicial Activism Strikes Again, Western Caucus Slams Wyoming Leasing Decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, members of the Western Caucus and stakeholders issued statements slamming U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia Rudolph Contreras' decision in the case of WildEarth Guardians v. Zinke which has halted responsible energy production and job creation on more than 300,000 acres of land in Wyoming:

Senator Mike Enzi (WY): "This short-sighted decision by a judge in Washington, D.C. will not only damage Wyoming’s workforce and economy, it also sets a dangerous precedent for the future. Leasing public lands is vital for our continued efforts to keep energy prices low and create energy independence for the nation. Instead of trying to manipulate our judicial system to stop energy development, we should be focused on innovative technological solutions to help ensure our energy development is affordable, reliable and cleaner."

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (WY-At Large): "A U.S. District Court Judge’s ruling in Wildearth Guardians v. Zinke reflects the litigation strategy used by far-left environmental extremists to thwart energy development in Wyoming.  It is yet another example why the administration needs to overhaul NEPA implementation across the federal government. I will continue to work with President Trump to pursue policies that restore the voice of local stakeholders in Wyoming and reduce the serial litigation imposed by radical environmental groups."

House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Republican Rob Bishop (UT-01): "This is a systemic attack on the rule of law by liberal special interests and activist judges.  As another prime example of NEPA weaponization, this is a bad decision that will jeopardize jobs and revenues in Western States. Unfortunately, this sets a dangerous precedent for future legal assaults by the environmental activism industry and their friends in the courts."  

Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): "The livelihoods of the people of Wyoming and rural America shouldn’t be subject to the extremist demands of self-serving organizations like WildEarth Guardians. Curiously, even Judge Contreras questions his own unlawful expansion, admitting in his opinion that the environmental assessments being debated were not subject to the social cost of carbon or global carbon budget protocols when the Obama Administration approved the Wyoming leases. Sadly, this decision only encourages further exploitation of NEPA and the filing of more frivolous NGO lawsuits that will kill jobs and prevent responsible energy production. It sends a terrible message that one judge in Washington D.C. knows better than the people of Wyoming what's best for their state. This opinion is a slap in the face to local communities who depend on responsible energy production for employment, to heat their homes and fuel their cars, and to fund important services like education and infrastructure. This decision should be appealed and overturned."

Chief Regulatory Reform Officer Andy Biggs (AZ-05): "Today, the United States is responsible for only 15 percent of global CO2 emissions.  While the United States handily leads the way in reducing CO2 emissions, countries like China and India continue to see a substantial increase in CO2 emissions. To punish the great state of Wyoming at the behest of the radical left is wrong, unsubstantiated, and detrimental to our economy."

Dan Naatz, IPAA Senior Vice President of Government Relations
: "IPAA is disappointed with the court’s decision and actions. Leasing and exploration for oil and gas on federal lands is a phased process. The BLM cannot do thorough GHG analysis at the leasing stage when it has no idea how many wells, if any, will be developed on a particular lease. The court’s actions regarding lease sales that occurred during the Obama Administration make little sense."

Kathleen Sgamma, President of Western Energy Alliance
: "The judge threw out decades of legal precedent in this ruling. He is directing BLM to take a wild guess at how many wells would be developed on these leases and analyze GHG impacts for wells that will never be developed. He’s also asking BLM to analyze downstream impacts, which is clearly a new requirement not based in the law. This ruling, with its overreaching halt to drilling permits and repudiation of decades of precedent, is ripe for successful appeal. Western Energy Alliance has been an active intervenor defending leasing in the case, and we will continue to do so as this ruling is appealed."

On March 20, U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia, Judge Rudolph Contreras issued a memorandum opinion in the case of WildEarth Guardians v. Zinke.  

The judge’s decision negatively impacts 282 different leases on 303,000 acres of land in Wyoming. The ruling prevents the BLM from issuing applications for permits to drill and authorizing any new drilling on the leases until the BLM satisfies the judge’s onerous and excessive requirements to do more unnecessary environmental analysis not required by law on this massive swath of land.

Furthermore, this Washington D.C. judge is attempting to now require the BLM to blindly estimate the number of wells that could be developed on these leases and to determine greenhouse gas emissions for wells that will never be put into production, defying decades of sound legal opinion to the contrary. 

Oddly, the judge attempted to further justify his misguided expansion of excessive environmental analysis requirements stating, the "BLM may not forgo using the social cost of carbon simply because courts have thus far been reluctant to mandate it…the protocol may one day soon be a necessary component of NEPA analyses."

The Obama Administration’s flawed social cost of carbon is unlawful guidance that sneakily attempts to pave the way for ‘cap and trade’ like mandates. The Obama Administration continuously used social cost of carbon valuation models, which can be easily manipulated, to try and justify new job-killing regulations. The House of Representatives has voted more than a dozen times to block, defund, or oppose the social cost of carbon since 2013.

While the judge’s decision is reckless, they were several important findings in his opinion including: "First, although Plaintiffs have shown that BLM failed to sufficiently analyze the environmental effects of its leasing decisions, they have not shown that the magnitude of those effects is significantly higher than BLM represented. Second, Plaintiffs have not identified record evidence suggesting that BLM faced opposition from other government agencies with stakes or ‘special expertise’ in the leasing decisions; And third, although WildEarth and other organizations raised concerns about the climate change methodologies—or lack thereof—employed by BLM, BLM considered Plaintiffs’ suggested methodologies and explained why it did not use them. Those explanations were not flawed…Because BLM 'considered the various methodological challenges raised by the interested parties and addressed their concerns appropriately,' and because Plaintiffs did not otherwise identify serious flaws in BLM’s methods, the Wyoming Lease Sales’ environmental effects were not 'highly controversial.'"

According to the Wyoming State Geological Survey, Wyoming ranks eighth in domestic crude oil production and produced 75.6 million barrels of crude oil in 2017. Wyoming depends on robust energy prosecution for a sizable portion of its annual gross domestic product. According to the Department of the Interior, the extractive industries in Wyoming accounted for 20.3% of gross domestic product in 2016, and jobs in the extractive industries made up 6.9% of statewide employment.


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