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Viewing recent projects in Natural Resources
  • Comments to EPA on the Clean Water Rule

    In our recent comments on the attempted repeal of EPA’s Clean Water Rule, we show how the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers obscured the value of wetlands protection in their proposal to repeal the rule.

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  • Comments to Interior’s Royalty Policy Committee

    On behalf of Policy Integrity, Policy Director Jayni Hein recently delivered a statement at the Department of Interior’s Royalty Policy Committee public meeting on October 4, 2017. Her statement included recommendations on how Interior can achieve “fair market value” for taxpayers for the use and development of federal resources, as well as how Interior can fulfil its “multiple use” mandate.

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  • Muddying the Waters Cover

    Muddying the Waters

    How the Trump administration is obscuring the value of wetlands protection from the Clean Water Rule

    In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers revised the definition of the “waters of the United States” as part of the Clean Water Rule. This revised definition was expected to increase the wetland area subject to protection under the Clean Water Act, and an economic analysis conducted by the agencies at the time showed that the benefits of the rule would substantially outweigh the costs. Under the Trump administration, the agencies now propose to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule and have issued a revised economic analysis in support of that decision. In the new analysis, the agencies now claim that the majority of the benefits in the 2015 analysis cannot be quantified, making it appear that the Clean Water Rule is not cost-benefit justified. The agencies have violated many of their own requirements for conducting economic analysis to arrive at this conclusion, and a more comprehensive assessment of the evidence shows that the 2015 Clean Water Rule is still cost-benefit justified. Repealing the 2015 Rule would forgo substantial environmental and economic benefits.

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  • Comments on Hydraulic Fracturing Rule Rescission

    In proposing to rescind its two-year-old rule for managing hydraulic fracturing operations on federal and tribal lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) fails to explain why the rescission’s estimated cost savings to industry justify the forgone benefits, such as environmental protection and increased worker safety. Our comments to BLM on the proposed rescission discuss the agency’s inadequate cost-benefit analysis, which does not sufficiently explain why changed circumstances in the past two years have altered the rule’s cost-benefit justification.

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  • Public Comments on Regulatory Review (Treasury, GSA, FEMA, State, DOJ, FCA, Interior)

    Many federal agencies are requesting the public’s suggestions for rules to repeal or reform, tacitly implying that most regulations stifle economic growth. In comments to several agencies, we argue that regulatory review should consider the public benefits of regulation, not just the costs to regulated industries, and should prioritize review of rules for which actual costs and benefits diverge significantly from predicted costs and benefits.

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  • Public Comments on the Review of National Monuments

    We recently submitted comments to the Department of the Interior on their review of certain national monuments established since 1996. The review process was initiated by Executive Order 13792, which directs the Secretary of the Interior to review all national monuments designated or expanded after January 1, 1996, that either include more than 100,000 acres of public lands or for which the Secretary determines inadequate “public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders” occurred.

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  • Comments to the Office of Natural Resources Revenue on the Reform Rule

    We recently submitted two sets of comments to the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR), making the case against repealing an Obama-era reform that promised to recover millions of dollars in royalties from mining companies—a reform that would have ensured that taxpayers receive fair market value for the use of public lands. Our first set of comments objects to the proposed repeal of the Consolidated Federal Oil & Gas and Federal & Indian Coal Valuation Reform Rule (the “Reform Rule”), while our second set responds to ONRR’s request for comments on whether revisions are necessary to the regulations governing coal, oil, and gas royalties. We previously submitted comments to ONRR on the proposed Reform Rule.

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  • Coal Royalties Cover

    Coal Royalties

    Historical Uses and Justifications

    Royalties have been used as a policy lever to influence behavior and meet national goals for centuries. For example, royalties have been set at specific rates in order to: encourage resource production; encourage westward expansion; maintain the incentive to create new inventions; and deter socially undesirable behavior, to name just a few. This report concludes that it would be reasonable for Interior to adjust coal royalty rates to account for negative externalities that are not otherwise addressed by regulation. Historical uses, accepted economic justifications, legislative history, and examples of royalty use by private actors and in other industries discussed in the paper all support the determination that it would be reasonable for Interior to increase coal royalty rates to account for externality costs and to better align the federal coal program with national climate change priorities.

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  • Self-Bonding in an Era of Coal Bankruptcy Cover

    Self-Bonding in an Era of Coal Bankruptcy

    Recommendations for Reform

    Federal law requires coal companies to reclaim and restore land and water resources that have been degraded by mining. But at many sites, reclamation occurs slowly, if it all. Mining companies are required to post performance bonds to ensure the successful completion of reclamation efforts should they become insolvent, but regulators have discretion to accept “self-bonds,” which allow many companies to operate without posting any surety or collateral. As the coal industry experiences financial distress and coal companies declare bankruptcy, the viability of future reclamation work is endangered. This report offers recommendations to help regulators better assess coal companies’ financial health and take steps to curtail self-bonding.

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  • Hein Testifies at House Hearing on Offshore Leasing

    On July 6, Jayni Hein testified at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the “Innovation in Offshore Leasing Act.” The hearing, held by the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, focused on H.R. 5577, a bill that would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to allow internet-based offshore oil and gas lease sales, among other measures. Hein’s testimony covered four main topics, suggesting that the Department of the Interior should: continue to increase transparency and public participation in the offshore leasing process; improve the regulations that underlie the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM’s) five-year planning process; build on recent progress addressing environmental, social, and economic uncertainty in its five-year Program and lease sales; and advance efforts to account for the environmental and social costs of fossil fuel leasing through royalty rate and other fiscal reform. Hein’s testimony elaborated on some of the arguments from her recent Alaska Law Review article and recent comments to BOEM.

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