February, 08 2023, 03:44pm EDT
For Immediate Release
Conservation Groups to Defend Biden Administration Postponement of Oil, Gas Lease Sales
Wyoming, industry double down on failed attempt to rewrite the law for oil and gas companies
Seventeen groups represented by Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center moved to intervene today to defend the Biden administration’s postponement of several oil and gas lease sales. A September ruling in U.S. District Court in Wyoming affirmed the administration’s ability to postpone lease sales, but the state of Wyoming and industry groups are suing in an attempt to rewrite the law to benefit fossil fuel companies.
“This is nothing more than an effort to hand over management of our public lands to the oil and gas industry,” said Michael Freeman, senior attorney with Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain Office. “The law is clear that the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management have broad discretion to determine when, where, and whether to hold oil and gas lease sales. The administration has followed the law, but the fossil fuel industry is attempting to rewrite the law in its favor.”
In December, Wyoming and two industry trade groups challenged the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision not to hold lease sales during parts of 2021 and 2022. Even though the BLM has numerous lease sales scheduled in 2023 – nearly half a million acres are being considered for leasing – the plaintiffs claim the agency has an “unwritten policy” pausing leasing and want the court to order the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the BLM to hold lease sales every three months across the West. The Supreme Court and 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that the Interior Department and the BLM have broad discretion to determine the timing and scope of lease sales, including not holding them at all.
“Forcing Interior to lease without fully weighing public impacts is industry’s attempt to continue looting public resources by accumulating excess leases at bargain basement prices,” said Bob LeResche, Powder River Basin Resource Council board member and chair of Western Organization of Resource Councils. “Industry already has more than 26 million acres of public mineral estate tied up in oil and gas leases, and drillers have stockpiled more than 9,000 federal drilling permits. The industry could continue drilling and producing as normal for decades even with no new leases.”
In September U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl rejected similar claims by the fossil fuel industry and Wyoming. The judge held that the BLM had acted within its legal authority when it postponed lease sales to ensure that it fully considered potential environmental harms.
“This is an attempt to strip away the crucial role and authority of the Department of the Interior to determine how to manage public lands to best serve the public interest,” said Julia Stuble, Wyoming senior manager at The Wilderness Society. “Handing over this power to the oil and gas industry would threaten not only public lands, but also the communities that depend on them for clean air and clean water, along with efforts to transition to a just, clean energy future.”
“Last year, the court affirmed the Bureau of Land Management’s authority to postpone oil and gas lease sales in order to make certain they adhere to the law,” said Melissa Hornbein, senior attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “The court should shut down Wyoming and the oil and gas industry’s transparent attempt to circumvent this basic principle.”
“Today’s filing demonstrates that we refuse to sit back and allow Big Oil to push for policies that perpetuate dirty energy,” said Hallie Templeton, legal director for Friends of the Earth. “The law is crystal clear: the federal government holds broad authority over whether, when, and how to lease public lands for oil and gas development. The energy sector should be looking to the future of justly sourced renewable energy, not pushing outdated technology that exploits people and the planet.”
“This lawsuit is just another ploy by the fossil fuel industry and its political stooges to wrest control of the public’s land for more climate-destroying profits,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The federal government retains broad power to manage public land for the public good, and that includes not leasing land for more fracking industrialization.”
“It is clearly within the Department of Interior’s authority to decide when and where to lease for fossil fuel development, including any pause to review the rules. It’s long overdue for the federal oil and gas program to be updated to ensure protections for public health, environment, wildlife and communities,” said Barbara Vasquez, board member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils from Cowdry, Colorado. “In my community, we are experiencing firsthand what is at stake when BLM leases public lands for oil and gas. When leases are developed, rural landscapes and communities are industrialized with the inevitable spills and emissions hazardous to public health and environment. But you don’t have to live next door. Climate change is driving our accelerating transition to renewables and calling for the managed decline of fossil fuel development on public lands. The BLM must be a leader on this change.”
“For too long BLM has blindly leased public lands to oil and gas companies without actually understanding the impacts of development,” said Peter Hart, attorney with Wilderness Workshop. “Now the agency is working to reevaluate its oil and gas management and to assess impacts, like those that new development will have on the climate. It just makes sense to pause new leasing until the program is brought into this century, and it is well within the agency’s authority.”
“Our public lands must be part of the climate solution, instead of making the problem worse,” said Connie Wilbert, director of Sierra Club Wyoming. “Stabilizing our climate for future generations means protecting public land from oil and gas development, and despite what Wyoming and the oil and gas industry claim, the Department of Interior clearly has the right to postpone lease sales.”
“The Department of the Interior needs the latitude to manage our public lands, to permanently protect treasures such as Grand Teton National Park and its surrounding landscape,” said Matt Kirby, senior director of landscape conservation for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We reject this attempt to force fossil fuel development on America’s public lands, in spite of what is in the public interest and may threaten national parks.”
Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center represent a coalition of conservation and citizen groups in the Wyoming litigation. Earthjustice represents Friends of the Earth, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, The Wilderness Society, Valley Organic Growers Association, Western Colorado Alliance, Western Watersheds Project, and Wilderness Workshop. The Western Environmental Law Center represents the Center for Biological Diversity, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, Food & Water Watch, Montana Environmental Information Center, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Western Organization of Resource Councils, and WildEarth Guardians.
Filings available here:
Friends of the Earth fights for a more healthy and just world. Together we speak truth to power and expose those who endanger the health of people and the planet for corporate profit. We organize to build long-term political power and campaign to change the rules of our economic and political systems that create injustice and destroy nature.(202) 783-7400
Uproar in Italy as Fascist Government Attacks Right of Same-Sex Parents to Adopt
"It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view," said the mayor of Milan. "I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility."
Mar 18, 2023
Hundreds of people hit the streets of Milan, Italy on Saturday to protest the far-right government's assault on the parental rights of same-sex couples.
"You explain to my son that I am not his mother," read one woman's sign, while children wore shirts declaring, "It is love that creates a family."
Italy legalized same-sex civil unions in 2016, but it stopped short of granting gay and lesbian couples the right to adopt amid opposition from the Catholic Church. Since then, courts have made decisions on a case-by-case basis in response to lawsuits from prospective adoptive parents.
Some municipalities, however, "decided to act unilaterally," Agence France-Pressereported Saturday. "Milan had been registering children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy—which is illegal in Italy—or medically assisted reproduction, which is only available for heterosexual couples."
"But its center-left mayor Beppe Sala revealed this week that this had stopped after the interior ministry sent a letter insisting that the courts must decide," the news agency noted.
In a podcast, Sala said that "it is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view."
"I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility in Milan," he added, vowing to fight back.
"This government is the maximum expression of homophobia."
AFP reported that "about 20 children are waiting to be registered in Milan," citing leading LGBTQ+ rights campaigner Fabrizio Marrazzo. "A mother or father who is not legally recognized as their child's parent can face huge bureaucratic problems, with the risk of losing the child if the registered parent dies or the couple's relationship breaks down."
Earlier this week, Marrazzo said that "when a law is unjust and discriminatory those who engage in politics must have the courage to disobey it."
In the words of Gabriele Piazzoni, secretary-general of Arcigay, "The ban is one of the most concrete manifestations of the fury that the right-wing majority is unleashing against LGBTI people."
Last year, before she was elected to lead Italy's far-right coalition government, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of the fascist Brothers of Italy Party said in a speech, "Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby!"
Earlier this week, The Associated Pressreported, "a Senate commission blocked an attempt to recognize birth certificates of the children of same-sex couples issued by other E.U. states."
Alessia Crocini, president of Rainbow Families, warned that "this government is the maximum expression of homophobia."
"Meloni says that for a child to grow up well, they need a mother and father, even if decades of research say otherwise," Crocini told AP. "It is insulting to hundreds of thousands of families with two same-sex parents."
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'Beautiful': Minnesota Becomes 4th State to Provide Free School Meals to All Kids
"Let this serve as a reminder that poverty is a policy choice," said one advocate. "In the richest country in the world, it is absolutely inexcusable that millions of our children go to school hungry because they are living in poverty."
Mar 18, 2023
Surrounded by students, teachers, and advocates, Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Friday afternoon signed into law a bill to provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to all of the state's roughly 820,000 K-12 pupils regardless of their household income.
The move to make Minnesota the fourth U.S. state to guarantee universal free school meals—joining California, Maine, and Colorado—elicited praise from progressives.
"Beautiful," tweeted Stephanie Kelton, a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University.
"No child should go hungry for any reason, period."
UC-Berkeley professor and former U.S. labor secretary Robert Reich wrote on social media: "Let this serve as a reminder that poverty is a policy choice. In the richest country in the world, it is absolutely inexcusable that millions of our children go to school hungry because they are living in poverty."
An estimated 1 in 6 children in Minnesota don't get enough to eat on a regular basis. But 1 in 4 food-insecure kids live in households that don't qualify for the federal free and reduced meal program, leading to "mounting school lunch debts in the tens of thousands of dollars," Minnesota Public Radioreported.
Tens of thousands of children are set to benefit from Minnesota's new law, which could be operational as early as summer school in July. Some of them were there to thank Walz at the signing ceremony, where the sense of elation was palpable.
"As a former teacher, I know that providing free breakfast and lunch for our students is one of the best investments we can make to lower costs, support Minnesota's working families, and care for our young learners and the future of our state," Walz said. "This bill puts us one step closer to making Minnesota the best state for kids to grow up, and I am grateful to all of the legislators and advocates for making it happen."
The Minnesota House—led by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party, the state's Democratic affiliate—first passed the bill in February in a 70-58 party-line vote. The state Senate—where the DFL holds just a single-seat advantage—approved it on Tuesday by a 38-26 margin. The state House rubber-stamped an amended version of the bill on Thursday.
In a now-viral clip from the state Senate's debate over the bill earlier this week. Sen. Steve Drazkowski (R-20) questioned whether hunger is really a problem in Minnesota—even as the state's food banks reported a record surge in visits last year, months before federal lawmakers slashed pandemic-era Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
"I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry," Drazkowski said before voting against the bill. "I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that says they don't have access to enough food to eat."
During Friday's signing ceremony, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan (DFL) said, "To our decision-makers who believe they have never met someone who is experiencing or has experienced hunger: Hi, my name is Peggy Flanagan, and I was 1 in 6 of those Minnesota children who experienced hunger."
"By providing free breakfast and lunch to all of our students, we are removing barriers and removing stigma from the lunch room," said Flanagan. "We are helping family pocketbooks, especially for those 1 in 4 who don't qualify for financial assistance with school meals. We are leading with our values that no child should go hungry for any reason, period."
"This is an investment in the well-being of our children, as well as an investment in their academic success," Flanagan added, calling the "generation-changing" bill "the most important thing" she's ever worked on in her life.
"By providing free breakfast and lunch to all of our students, we are removing barriers and removing stigma from the lunch room... This is an investment in the well-being of our children, as well as an investment in their academic success."
As Minnesota Reformerreported: "The majority of Minnesota schools receive federal funding from the National School Lunch Program, which reimburses schools for each meal served, though it doesn't cover the cost of the entire meal. Under the new law, schools are prohibited from charging students for the remaining cost, and the state will foot the rest of the bill—about $200 million annually."
MPR noted that "the legislation is similar to a program that was introduced during the pandemic to provide meals for all students, but was discontinued at the end of last year."
Last month, The Star Tribune editorial board opined that providing free breakfast and lunch to all of Minnesota's students, including affluent ones, is "excessive."
Pushing back against this argument for means-testing, Darcy Stueber—director of Nutrition Services for Mankato Area Public Schools and public policy chair of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association—asserted that meals should be guaranteed to all kids at no cost, just like other basic learning necessities.
"We don't charge for Chromebooks and desks and things like that," she told MPR. "It's a part of their day and they're there for so many hours. It just completes that whole learning experience for the child."
Minnesota Rep. Sydney Jordan (DFL-60A), the bill's lead author, made the same point to counter GOP lawmakers' complaints following the initial passage of the legislation.
"We give every kid in our school a desk," Jordan said last month. "There are lots of kids out there that can afford to buy a desk, but they get a desk because they go to school."
Walz, for his part, stressed Friday that his administration is "just getting started" when it comes to boosting education funding.
"The big stuff," said the governor, "is still coming."
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'Threat to the Nation': Trump Calls for Protests to Stop Potential Arrest in Echo of Jan. 6
Trump has recently "excused or dismissed the violence of January 6," one journalist warned. "He is an authoritarian willing to (again) use violence for his own ends."
Mar 18, 2023
Former U.S. President Donald Trump claimed Saturday on his social media platform that he "will be arrested" on Tuesday and implored his supporters to "protest" and "take our nation back," sparking fears of additional right-wing violence.
Trump's call to action was reminiscent of how, six weeks after losing the 2020 presidential election, he took to Twitter to urge his supporters to join a "big protest" in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. "Be there, will be wild!" he wrote. Hundreds of far-right insurrectionists showed up and, after Trump told them to march from a rally near the White House to the Capitol, stormed the halls of Congress in a bid to prevent lawmakers from certifying President Joe Biden's win. Multiple people died as a result of the failed coup, which was fueled by Trump and his Republican allies' incessant lies about voter fraud.
Trump is expected to be indicted by a Manhattan grand jury in a criminal case involving hush money paid to women who said they had sexual encounters with the former president, but its timing is unclear.
Just before 7:30 am ET on Saturday, Trump baselessly declared on Truth Social: "Illegal leaks from a corrupt and highly political Manhattan district attorney's office... indicate that, with no crime being able to be proven... the far and away leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States of America will be arrested on Tuesday of next week. Protest, take our nation back!"
Alluding to Trump's prior use of social media to provoke the Capitol attack, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked, "Will Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube allow him to use their platforms to incite riots?"
Mother Jones' D.C. bureau chief David Corn, meanwhile, noted that Trump has recently "excused or dismissed the violence of January 6."
"He is an authoritarian willing to (again) use violence for his own ends," Corn tweeted. "That is a threat to the nation."
As HuffPost's senior White House correspondent S.V. Dáte pointed out, "The coup-attempting former president... began inciting civil unrest if prosecutors came after him more than a year ago."
At a January 2022 rally in Texas, Trump promised to pardon January 6 rioters if he wins in 2024 and urged huge protests if prosecutors investigating his effort to subvert the 2020 election and other alleged crimes try to bring charges.
"If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had... in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta, and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt," Trump told a crowd of his supporters 14 months ago.
According toThe New York Times:
Early Saturday morning, there was little evidence yet that Mr. Trump's new demand for protests had been embraced by extremist groups.
But Ali Alexander, a prominent organizer of "Stop the Steal" rallies after the 2020 election, reposted a message on his Telegram channel on Saturday suggesting that he supported mass protest to protect Mr. Trump.
"Previously, I had said if Trump was arrested or under the threat of a perp walk, 100,000 patriots should shut down all routes to Mar-a-Lago," Mr. Alexander wrote. "Now I’m retired. I'll pray for him though!"
Lacking the platform provided by the White House or the machinery of a large political campaign, it is unclear how many people Mr. Trump is able to reach, let alone mobilize, using his Truth Social website.
After the FBI in early August searched Trump's Mar-a-Lago palace and removed boxes of documents as part of a federal probe into the ex-president's handling of classified materials, many anonymous and some well-known reactionaries called for "civil war" on Twitter, patriots.win, and elsewhere.
Three days later, Ricky Shiffer, a Trump loyalist with suspected ties to a far-right extremist group and an unspecified connection to the January 6 insurrection, was shot and killed by police after an hourslong standoff. Shiffer, wielding an AR-15 and a nail gun, allegedly attempted to break into the FBI's Cincinnati office and fled to a nearby field when he was unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Trump continued to lie about the Mar-a-Lago search on Truth Social, sparking an "unprecedented" surge in threats against FBI personnel and facilities.
As Dáte noted on Saturday morning, many people downplayed warnings issued ahead of the January 6 assault.
"Many of Trump's core supporters want authoritarianism," the journalist tweeted. "They believe in neither democracy nor the rule of law."
As the Times reported:
Although prosecutors working for the [Manhattan] district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, have signaled that an indictment of Mr. Trump could be imminent, there was no immediate indication as to why the former president appeared confident that he would be arrested Tuesday. People with knowledge of the matter have said that at least one more witness is expected to testify in front of the grand jury, which could slightly delay any indictment.
Three people close to Mr. Trump said that the former president's team had no specific knowledge about when an indictment might come or when an arrest could be anticipated. One of those people, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said that Mr. Trump's advisers' best guess was that it could happen around Tuesday, and that someone may have relayed that to him, but that they also had made clear to one another that they didn't know a specific time frame.
Trump is expected to be charged in connection with payments his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to silence adult film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal—both of whom alleged affairs with Trump—in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen has testified that at Trump's direction, he orchestrated payments totaling $280,000 to Daniels and McDougal. According to Cohen, the Trump Organization reimbursed him $420,000 and classified it as a legal fee. Trump's former fixer pleaded guilty to federal campaign violations in 2018.
Trump has so far evaded charges but that could soon change, as prosecutors are expected to accuse Trump of greenlighting the false recording of expenses in his company's internal records.
Citing five unnamed officials familiar with the matter, NBC Newsreported Friday that local, state, and federal law enforcement and security agencies are preparing for the possibility of a Trump indictment as early as next week.
If indicted, Trump would become the first U.S. president to face criminal charges in or out of office. Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing, says that he will keep campaigning regardless of whether he is arrested.
The Manhattan D.A.'s hush money probe is just one of Trump's many legal woes. The twice-impeached president is also facing a state-level criminal investigation in Georgia over his efforts to overturn that state's 2020 election results, as well as federal probes into his coup attempt and his handling of classified government documents.
Nevertheless, Trump is still seen as the front-runner to win the GOP's 2024 nomination.
David Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, said Saturday morning that if Trump is indicted in New York, "there will be protests here," warning: "You have to worry about potential violence."
He pointed out that questions remain as to whether Trump would surrender to New York authorities or face extradition. Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another authoritarian demagogue who is widely considered Trump's leading rival for the GOP's 2024 nomination, "has to sign off [any] extradition orders," said Aronberg.
The Times noted that if "Trump is arraigned, he will almost certainly be released without spending any time behind bars because the indictment is likely to contain only nonviolent felony charges."
However, The Associated Pressreported that it is not clear when the other investigations into Trump "will end or whether they might result in criminal charges."
"But they will continue regardless of what happens in New York," the outlet explained, "underscoring the ongoing gravity—and broad geographic scope—of the legal challenges confronting the former president."
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