CRS Files Briefs Opposing Monument Rollbacks

On November 19, CRS filed amici curiae briefs supporting lawsuits against the Trump administration over its dramatic rollback of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah. These briefs were filed in opposition to the administration’s motions to dismiss the cases. CRS argues that the Antiquities Act, which provides presidents with specific authority to establish national monuments, in no way authorizes them to diminish or undo previously established monuments. Under that law—and the U.S. Constitution—such two-way authority rests only with Congress. “We have always maintained that these national monument rollbacks are illegal. The Antiquities Act was enacted exclusively to protect America’s natural and cultural heritage, it in no way confers authority on the president to diminish or destroy it,” said CRS president David Jenkins. In the early 1900s our nation faced a serious problem with the rampant looting and destruction of historic and scientifically important artifacts on public lands, much of which was done to turn a quick buck. Time after time, Congress failed to act quickly enough to preserve them. With the Antiquities Act, Congress responded to that problem by specifically granting the president authority to protect these resources by designating national monuments. There was never any thought of giving presidents the authority to unprotect. Trump’s claim to the contrary is ludicrous. It is also worth noting that the Antiquities Act, and its subsequent use to safeguard America’s national treasures, has a rich conservative heritage. It was passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by Republican president Theodore Roosevelt. Sixteen Presidents (8 Republican and 8 Democrats) have since used its authority to create national monuments....

CRS Election Day Recap

CRS was actively involved in three ballot measures that were decided on Election Day. We scored important victories in two of those. Here is a brief recap: Nevada Question 6 – CRS supported this measure that would increase Nevada’s renewable energy standard for electricity to 50 percent by 2030. Such a standard is needed because Nevada, which has abundant solar and geothermal resources, still depends on natural gas piped in from other states for 75 percent of its electricity generation. This lopsided energy mix makes little sense because solar energy in Nevada, even with storage for overnight power, is currently cheaper than power generated by natural gas. Even more important for ratepayers, while solar energy will keep getting cheaper, the price of natural gas is expected to double over the next decade. Question 6 passed, and will need to pass again in 2020 to become law. Colorado Amendment 74 – CRS opposed this amendment pushed by American Farm Bureau and the oil and gas industry. Had it passed, Amendment 74 would require taxpayers to compensate property owners when a law or regulation reduces the value of their property. In other words, individuals and corporations could sue local governments over any law they contend might cost them money, even if the law is necessary to protect the public. Not only would it fleece taxpayers, it would also create a strong disincentive for enacting laws that limit pollution, manage development, or protect health and safety. Amendment 74 thankfully failed. Arizona Proposition 127 – This measure was the same as Nevada’s Question 6. It would have increased the renewable energy standard to...

Colorado’s Amendment 74, A Frightening Assault on Taxpayers

Colorado has a ballot question this year, Amendment 74, that if passed, would represent an unprecedented fleecing of Colorado taxpayers. It would amend the Colorado constitution to allow any corporation to sue local governments over any law they contend might cost them money. This amendment would hold towns and neighborhoods hostage to the specter of costly lawsuits, creating a strong disincentive for passing laws to protect the public. For example, a town that prohibits oil and gas drilling too close to schools could be successfully sued for damages to companies wanting to drill there. The list of absurd possibilities are endless. After Oregon passed a similar measure, the state faced nearly $20 billion in claims in just the first three years. Thankfully it was repealed before it bankrupted local communities and undercut the state’s ability to fund schools and infrastructure. The consequences of  passing Amendment 74 are vast. In addition to allowing corporations to siphon away Coloradans’ tax dollars, it would undermine the environmental protections, health standards and zoning laws needed to protect the public. In short, it makes everyone and second class citizen by giving more power to moneyed special interests. This is not conservative. Nothing good can come from Amendment 74. This is why CRS hopes this reckless amendment is defeated at the ballot box on November 6. Below is a short piece by two Colorado conservatives explaining why Amendment 74 runs afoul of basic conservative principles, even as flyers promoting try to tie the effort to great conservatives like Ronald Reagan. Reagan was a steward of taxpayer’s wallets, he would no doubt see this scheme for what...

Our Petition to Restore Multiple-Use Management

On September 5, CRS petitioned Secretary of the Interior Zinke to temporarily withdraw approximately 117,000 acres of public lands in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming from oil and gas leasing.  Over the past year-and-a-half, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has unsuccessfully tried to sell oil and gas leases on all of these lands.  It is now time to take a step back and reexamine whether other uses of these lands, such as hunting and fishing, safeguarding drinking water, and recreation, should take precedence. “Responsible stewardship and multiple use are conservative principles that have guided America’s public land management for more than a century. The Trump administration has turned this tried and true approach on its head, threatening the public access, resource quality, and diverse revenue stream that western communities depend on,” said CRS president David Jenkins. The parcels included in our petition include critical habitat for big game and other wildlife, migration corridors, trout streams, popular outdoor recreation areas, important drinking water sources, and significant historic sites. Many of these parcels were leased over objections by state and local agencies that understand the true values of these lands. For this administration’s leasing program,  quantity is trumping quality. There is no correlation between number of acres offered and number of acres actually leased. Since this administration came to office, the BLM has offered more than 12.7 million acres for oil and gas leasing, yet only 1.3 million acres have sold. With this no-holds-barred pursuit of its so-called “energy dominance” agenda, the Trump administration has made oil and gas drilling its preferred use of America’s public lands, and in doing...

Clean Power Plan Rollback Won’t Save Coal

The Trump administration’s decision to scrap the Clean Power Plan, and replace it with a scheme that will allow at least 12 times the pollution, is irresponsible and will do nothing to meet moral and legal obligations to lower carbon emissions. Despite this brazen effort to prop up the coal industry, free market forces will continue to displace coal in favor of natural gas and renewables. Pandering to coal state residents with false promises of a coal comeback is self-serving and cruel. Scrapping the Clean Power Plan, along with this administration’s effort to roll back auto fuel efficiency and emission standards, and a host of other pollution control rollbacks, together constitute the biggest assault on America’s air quality since President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act into law 48 years ago. Equally problematic, is the administration’s total abandonment of efforts to address climate change. Ignoring a very real problem, which is already having significant impacts and proving costly, is not conservative. A comprehensive, common-sense policy to reduce carbon emissions is greatly needed, and Republicans in Congress need to finally step up. Thirty years ago President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, two of the world’s greatest conservative leaders, were both boldly calling for action to address climate change. Thatcher warned that we must “remember our duty to Nature before it is too late.” In the three decades since, the science has gotten more certain, the impacts have become obvious, and yet today’s pretend “conservatives” have prioritized special interest politics over their moral obligation to safeguard our planet, or as Reagan put it, “this magical planet that God gave us.” The current...