On behalf of the Western Organization of Resource Councils, we responded to the Government’s motion to dismiss our ongoing lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s secretive and unlawful Royalty Policy Committee. Our legal filing emphasizes the irreparable harm to ranchers, local landowners, taxpayers, and conservationists caused by the RPC’s outsourcing of federal mineral policy to fossil fuel interests.
In its motion to dismiss our lawsuit, the government has not disputed certain facts and injuries that would constitute violations of federal law. For example, the government has not denied that it has excluded conservation-minded viewpoints from the Committee or that, in the government’s words, it is “dead set” on adopting policies opposed by those viewpoints. The government has also admitted that it has not complied with conflict of interest safeguards, arguing only that those safeguards should not apply to the RPC, and that, even if they did, the Department should not be held accountable for their application. And this Zinke-created committee has admittedly developed recommendations behind closed doors, even refusing to allow the public to listen to meetings via telephone.
The RPC is stacked with representatives from ConocoPhillips, Cloud Peak Energy, Shell, Chevron, Concho Resources, and Incremental Oil & Gas USA, with no members representing ranchers, local landowners, taxpayers, or conservationists. Over the past year, the RPC delegated the vast bulk of policy formulation and debate to secretive subcommittees and working groups, and has developed and considered recommendations harmful to the communities whose representation has been unlawfully denied.
Our case demands that the RPC stop meeting or conducting further business until the Administration complies with federal laws governing the conduct and composition of advisory committees, including by fairly balancing the Committee to include representatives of the public interest. Absent an injunction, the secretive RPC panel will continue to exacerbate environmental harms inflicted by mineral extraction on western lands, such as reduced grazing land for cattle, increased air pollution, and impaired groundwater.