Washington – House Republican Conference Chair and Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) issued the following statement after introducing H.R. 8256, the Recognizing Local Interests in NEPA Decision Making Act, legislation providing that any proceeding for judicial review on the basis of compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) can only be brought in the state where the action is proposed or permitted to take place, or in Washington D.C.:

“NEPA analysis is a required part of the approval process for a large range of permitted activities on federal lands, from grazing leases to oil and gas project proposals. Unfortunately, radical environmental groups are delaying projects by ‘venue shopping’, filing NEPA compliance suits in liberal courts to gain a favorable decision. Activist judges, trial lawyers, and environmental extremists should not be able to prevent our communities from utilizing local resources as they see fit to create good-paying jobs and improve local economies”

Rep. Cheney introduced the legislation with the following original co-sponsors:

  • Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-04)
  • Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01)
  • Rep. Don Young (AK-AL)
  • Rep. Scott Perry (PA-10)
  • Rep. Pete Stauber (MN-08)
  • Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-01)
  • Rep. Rick Crawford (AR-01)
  • Rep. Kevin Hern (OK-01)
  • Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04)
  • Rep. Bruce Westerman (AR-04)
  • Rep. Mike Johnson (LA-04)

Upon the introduction of this legislation, Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna issued the following statement:

“The Wyoming Stock Growers Association applauds Congresswoman Cheney for introducing this legislation to address an issue that has plagued us for many years.  Our organization increasingly finds it necessary to engage in litigation brought by environmental extremist groups challenging agency actions that require NEPA analysis.  It has become the norm for these plaintiffs to “venue shop”.  They file their litigation in District Courts deemed most likely to issue a favorable decision or to approve of their proposed settlement.  For Wyoming, this most often means that these cases are being decided by judges in other states who lack any direct knowledge of the resources and the people who will be most impacted by their decision.” – Jim Magagna, Executive Vice President, Wyoming Stock Growers Association

Travis Deti from the Wyoming Mining Association also issued a statement about the legislation:  

“For too long radical environmental organizations have gamed the system through venue shopping. Rep. Cheney’s bill goes far in curbing this nefarious practice and we appreciate her work.” – Travis Deti, Executive Director, Wyoming Mining Association

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon released a statement as well applauding Rep. Cheney for introducing this bill:

“I heartily applaud Congresswoman Cheney for introducing the Recognition of Local Interests in NEPA Decision Making Bill. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was passed to ensure major actions taken by the Federal Government are thoroughly analyzed. Some analyses are years in the making and are often then challenged in the courts.  Where a challenge is filed frequently depends on where plaintiffs believe they will have a sympathetic judge. “Forum shopping” is very popular among those who make a living from judicial challenges of NEPA actions, but is usually inconvenient and often expensive for defendants. This bill would properly guide plaintiffs to the most appropriate courts in which to challenge an action.” – Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon

The President of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, Dr. Troy Thompson, wrote a letter in support of the bill, and an excerpt of that can be seen below:

“On behalf of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association (WCCA), an organization representing the Boards of County Commissioners for all twenty-three of Wyoming’s counties, I write in support of your draft bill on venue requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, referred to as the ‘Recognition of Local Interest in NEPA Decision Making Bill.’ As you know, all too often, challenges to federal land management decisions are heard outside Wyoming, far from the resources they are meant to address and those who will be most affected…Your bill would ensure that federal actions are judicially reviewed in Wyoming’s backyard, among the people and the landscape the decisions will impact the most, or in a federal court in Washington, D.C. by an experienced and balanced bench.” – Dr. Troy Thompson, President, Wyoming County Commissioners Association

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming also put out a statement praising this legislative proposal, as did both the Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America:

“NEPA was intended to foster reasonable analysis and open discussions about potential environmental impacts, a goal we support and engage. Unfortunately, the playbook of highly litigious organizations is to push discussions behind closed courtroom doors, out of the public eye, and in front of only the most sympathetic judges to force a policy outcome of their choosing. Then, to add icing to their cake, receive taxpayer funded reimbursement for their repeated lawsuits whether they win, lose or draw on the merits.  We applaud Representative Cheney’s effort to keep judicial review available, but to do so in a way that helps remove the perverse incentive to litigate as much as possible and only in the friendliest of venues.  If a legal challenge has merit as opposed to simply being part of the sue-settle-reimbursed-repeat cycle, then there is nothing to lose by filing in the more neutral DC Circuit.” – Pete Obermueller, President, Petroleum Association of Wyoming

“The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) commends Representative Cheney for introducing this important piece of legislation.  For too long, opponents of American oil and natural gas production on federal lands have used the NEPA process to slow, delay and impede vital energy projects.  They have also used the legal system to bring cases on NEPA actions in jurisdictions far from where the proposed activity is scheduled to take place.  This legislation is a common sense proposal that ensures more accountability to local communities during the NEPA review process.” – Dan Naatz, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, IPAA

“Western Energy Alliance is defending virtually every federal lease sold in the Rocky Mountain West since 2015, including hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth in Wyoming. Environmental groups who want to keep all oil and natural gas in the ground are purposefully selecting activist judges in neighboring states who have no concern for the impact on jobs and economic opportunity in Wyoming. These groups purposefully select judges they know will follow their policy preferences rather than the law. Congresswoman Cheney’s bill would stop this nonsensical situation and ensure that cases are brought in the proper courthouse, not one selected to achieve a desired outcome. If a lawsuit involves an issue related to Wyoming, it should be brought in Wyoming. We applaud and fully support this bill.” – Kathleen Sgamma, President, Western Energy Alliance

BACKGROUND:

The text of the bill can be found here.

The Recognition of Local Interests in NEPA Decision Making Act is legislation to ensure any proceeding for judicial review on the basis of compliance with NEPA can only be brought in the state where the action is proposed or permitted to take place, or in Washington DC.

Currently there is no provision in the rule specifying venue for litigations associated with NEPA. Some groups use this to their advantage and request judicial review on NEPA actions in venues that are chosen based solely on the probability of receiving favorable decisions. This tactic oftentimes results in rulings from courts in other states. Not only has this practice made it so local interests are no longer being fully represented, it has also become exceedingly costly for states as they have to hire out-of-state counsel to defend these cases in judicial districts located in other states.

This legislation is supported by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Mining Association, Petroleum Association of Wyoming, Western Energy Alliance, Independent Petroleum Association of America and Montana Petroleum Association.