Sacramento, California - California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, filed a motion to intervene in Cloud Peak Energy v. U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in the District of Wyoming attempting to overturn DOI’s Valuation Rule. The Attorneys General seek to defend the Rule, which ensures taxpayers and states receive fair value for oil, gas, and coal extracted from public and tribal lands.
The Office of Natural Resources Revenue estimated in 2016 that the Valuation Rule would result in an estimated annual increase in royalty collections of between $71.9 million and $84.9 million.
“We fought to preserve this commonsense rule from attempts by the Trump Administration to gut it on behalf of corporate interests — and we won,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Now we’re prepared to face the corporations putting profits ahead of Americans and our environment in court. The American people deserve the nearly $85 million that’s at stake here, and they deserve a voice fighting for them.”
Finalized in July 2016, the Valuation Rule replaced antiquated regulations that determined how much producers must pay in royalties for the oil, gas, and coal they extract from public and tribal lands. The Attorneys General have already defended the Valuation Rule from federal government attempts to both postpone and repeal the Rule’s requirements. In the motion to intervene filed today, the Attorneys General seek to protect the Rule from corporate interests seeking to avoid paying their fair share of royalties from the extraction of public resources.
The Valuation Rule took effect on January 1, 2017. Less than two months later, however, DOI issued a notice attempting to postpone the Valuation Rule’s requirements. Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas filed suit challenging DOI’s failure to implement the rule. On August 30, 2017, a federal district court agreed that DOI acted unlawfully in its attempt to postpone implementation of the rule.
Simultaneously, DOI began a process to repeal the Valuation Rule in its entirety. In public comments, Attorneys General Becerra and Balderas urged DOI to not move forward with a repeal that would reopen loopholes exploited by coal companies and deprive taxpayers of a fair return on public resources. Nonetheless, DOI went ahead with the repeal without offering any reasoned basis for doing so. On April 12, 2019, the federal district court ruled this action unlawful as well.
Now that the rule has gone into effect, corporate interests are suing to stop it and it is doubtful DOI will adequately defend a rule it sought to overturn. Thus, California and New Mexico are seeking to intervene to protect and defend this important rule