Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Environmental Shakedown

Over a three-year period, 2009-2012, Department of Justice data shows American taxpayers footed the bill for more than $53 million in so-called environmental groups’ legal fees—and the actual number could be much higher. The real motivation behind the Endangered Species Act (ESA) litigation, perhaps, could have more to do with vengeance and penance than with a real desire to protect flora and fauna.

On May 7, I spoke at the Four Corners Oil and Gas Conference in Farmington, New Mexico. During the two-day event, I sat in on many of the other sessions and had conversations with dozens of attendees. I left the event with the distinct impression that the current implementation of the ESA is a major impediment to the economic growth, tax revenue, and job creation that comes with oil-and-gas development. I have written on ESA issues many times, most recently I wrote about the lesser prairie chicken’s proposed “threatened” listing (which the Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS] listed on March 27) and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s lawsuit against the federal government over the “sue and settle” tactics of FWS and the Department of the Interior.

It is widely known that these groups despise fossil fuels. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) brags about its use of lawsuits to block development—but it is not just oil and gas they block, it is virtually all human activity.

...In researching for this week’s column, I have talked to people from a variety of industry and conservation efforts. The conversations started because I read something they’d written about CBD. Whether I was talking to someone interested in protecting big horn sheep, a fishing enthusiast, or an attorney representing ranching or extractive industries, CBD seems to be a thorn in their side. All made comments similar to what Amos Eno, who has been involved in conservation for more than forty years, told me: “CBD doesn’t care about the critters. They are creating a listing pipeline and then making money off of it.” Environmental writer Ted Williams, in a piece on wolves, called CBD: “perennial plaintiffs.”

New Mexico rancher Stephen Wilmeth directed me to a CBD profile he’d written. In it he addressed how the CBD’s efforts targeted livestock grazing and sought “the removal of cattle from hundreds of miles of streams.” Wilmeth states: “CBD has elevated sue and settle tactics, injunctions, new species listings, and bad press surrounding legal action to a modern art form. Consent decrees more often than not result in closed door sessions with concessions or demands made on agency policy formulation.”

In a posting on the Society for Bighorn Sheep website titled: Legal tactics directly from the Center for Biological Diversity, board member Gary Thomas states: “The Center ranks people second. By their accounting, all human endeavors, agriculture, clean water, energy, development, recreation, materials extraction, and all human access to any space, are subordinate to the habitat requirements of all the world’s obscure animals and plants. But these selfish people don’t care about any person, plant, or animal. The Center collects obscure and unstudied species for a single purpose, specifically for use in their own genre of lawsuits. They measure their successes not by quality of life for man nor beast, but by counting wins in court like notches in the handle of a gun.”

No comments: