The Wilderness Society joined two other groups to intervene in court to defend the Office of Natural Resource and Revenue (ONRR) valuation rule. The rule, which would have increased the royalty paid by oil, gas and coal developers on public lands, went into effect on January 1, 2017. However, the Department of Interior issued a stay of the rule on February 22, 2017 – some say unlawfully.
“Ensuring the American people aren’t robbed of their natural resources is not a partisan issue,” said Chase Huntley, director for the energy and climate program at The Wilderness Society. “Rolling back this rule continues the pattern we’ve seen with this Administration over the past month of checking off the fossil fuel industry’s wish list at the expense of the American people and our public lands.”
The Wilderness Society, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, joined the Powder River Basin Resource Council and Western Organization of Resource Councils to stand up for the American people and our public lands by intervening in a lawsuit filed by Cloud Peak Energy, Inc. and other coal companies challenging the valuation rule.
“Attacking the sensible improvements, put in place after years of public engagement and multiple independent audits and reviews, is playing politics with the welfare of the American public,” continued Huntley. “We are concerned that this administration and some in Congress have decided the fossil fuel industry need not pay every dollar due to taxpayers by suspending this rule to eliminate loopholes. If we have to go to the courts to hold them accountable, so be it.”
The rule in jeopardy clarified provisions that the coal and oil and gas industries had been taking advantage of for decades to underpay the royalties owed to the American taxpayer.
Experts have calculated that lax regulation and loopholes in the program’s administration have cost taxpayers an average of $124 million between 2008 and 2012.
In addition to being attacked by industry in the courts and by the new administration, members of Congress have introduced Congressional Review Act “resolutions of disapproval” that would roll back the rule and prevent future efforts to address the current problems in royalty valuation. Neither the House nor the Senate has taken any action yet the Coal Valuation Rule roll back bills.
Anastasia Greene, Communications Specialist, 202-429-2624, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chase Huntley, Energy and Climate Program Director, 202-429-7431, email@example.com