Oil and Gas Lobby Brags About Litigious Playbook, Despite Downtick in Energy Regulations During the Obama Administration

May 12, 2015

By Center for Western Priorities

The Western Energy Alliance, an oil and gas industry lobbying and public relations group, recently published a blog complaining that “spring is in full swing, and we’re already knee deep in the regulatory onslaught.”

The group enumerated a series efforts by land managers to strike a responsible balance between oil drilling and conservation on our national public lands that it will be objecting, protesting, litigating, and otherwise blocking.

But WEA’s bombast ‚Äì and its accusations that the Obama administration is burying the industry in regulations ‚Äì is not backed up by the data.

In fact, since President Obama came into office in January of 2009, only 12 rules have been completed by the Bureau of Land Management, which has responsibility for overseeing oil and gas development on public lands. And there are currently nine proposed rules working their way through the process.

That’s significantly lower than the 44 BLM rules listed as final under President George W. Bush and the more than 64 final rules under President Bill Clinton.

Rules by the Bureau of Land Management During Past Three Administrations




Final Rules

*Analysis of the Unified Agenda by the Center for Western Priorities. Unified Agenda history starts in 1995, so data reflect only half of President Clinton’s term.

Nevertheless, the Western Energy Alliance—which has often railed against environmental groups’ “frivolous lawsuits,” has decided to sue or block many of these common sense proposals. In just the last year, WEA has filed seven lawsuits in Federal Appellate and District Courts against the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the United States Geological Survey.

The most recent regulation that the group filed a lawsuit against is the new oil and gas rule recently finalized by the Bureau of Land Management. The common sense rule updates decades-old regulations guiding drilling and fracking on public lands. It ensures that companies operating on our national public lands follow the industry’s own best practices, while providing the necessary flexibility for states to lead when they have equal or more stringent rules on the books.

WEA filed its lawsuit one hour after the Bureau of Land Management submitted the final rule – an effort that was three years in the making and took significant input from the oil and gas industry and other interested parties.

Oil and gas companies often talk about working to earn the “social license to operate.” But the Western Energy Alliance does its industry few favors by accusing the Obama administration of “overreach” when the evidence shows otherwise, and by fighting reasonable and broadly-backed efforts to modernize how and where oil and gas development occurs on our public lands.