The Royalty Policy Committee illegally gave the fossil fuel industry influence over mineral leasing policy, made recommendations harmful to America’s public lands.

Following sustained legal pressure, the Trump administration and Interior Secretary Bernhardt have apparently disbanded the Department of Interior’s unlawful Royalty Policy Committee. As the lawsuit we filed on behalf of the Western Organization of Resource Councils explains, the RPC, violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act by secretly allowing fossil fuel interests to drive federal mineral policy on public and private lands—all while denying ranchers, landowners, taxpayers, and conservationists a voice on the committee.

Last year, we sued the Department of the Interior on WORC’s behalf to stop the RPC’s illegal policy backchannel.

Royalties paid for extracting taxpayer-owned coal, oil, and gas are used to fund education and other critical services for Mountain West state residents. For example, Wyoming receives more than $1 billion annually from federal royalties, a figure equivalent to thousands of dollars per state resident; and 75% of royalty payments received from mineral disbursements from state land in Montana go to the state general fund.

Despite the RPC’s apparent disbanding, we and WORC are pressing forward in our legal challenge to stop the administration from relying on recommendations made by the illegally chartered RPC and to force DOI to release committee and subcommittee records. On Thursday, May 2, 2019, we will file a motion for summary judgment calling for an injunction against committee business and the release of subcommittee materials.

In January, a federal court in Montana rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to dismiss the case and required the DOI to explain why the public interest benefits from the delegation of public lands and minerals policy to the fossil fuels industry.

Furthermore, since the RPC developed its policy recommendations behind closed doors, through subcommittees and working groups stacked with special interests, the court ordered the administration to release records demonstrating that the full RPC did not rubber stamp subcommittee recommendations.