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June 16 was the deadline for comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule change for the operation of the Bonanza Power Plant. This infringement on Deseret’s permit was brought on by the WildEarth Guardians.
It will be August before we know how the EPA will rule. An adverse ruling will have serious implications for the economic base of Rangely and all of Rio Blanco County. The WildEarth Guardians have also sued the BLM in an attempt to halt the expansion of the Deserado coal mine and to shut down the Colowyo mine.
Besides the power plant, Rio Blanco County is currently dealing with the following federal actions: Greater Sage Grouse Plan, the Penstemon Conservation Agreement, expanded floodplain regulations and the Outstanding Waters proposal.
We have several others we are working on; however, these aforementioned ones are a direct result of lawsuits by WildEarth Guardians.
The sage grouse and penstemon are two of about 1,000 species that U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management are required to write plans for due to a lawsuit that WildEarth Guardians were part of.
The floodplain regulations are a result of a WildEarth Guardian lawsuit in New Mexico against the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Outstanding Waters proposal is not supported by Rio Blanco County, the Yampa White Green Roundtable, the Forest Service or Trout Unlimited.
I know and have a working relationship with a multitude of environmental organizations and a representative of one told me that even though they agreed with some of WildEarth Guardians proposals, they would not lend support to an organization that came to Colorado refusing to build up relationships, even tearing them down as they try to run roughshod over the local people.
I first heard of the WildEarth Guardians in the 1980s, when they sued the Forest Service in New Mexico over grazing permits. This has become their business model. The way it works is this: WildEarth Guardians have lawyers on board that do “pro bono” or free work or charge minimal fees, the staff lawyers oversee law school interns who are being paid minimum wage or a minimal fee, then, if they win, they inflate their fees and charge the federal government under the Equal Access to Justice Act.
The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) was passed to ensure that individual citizens and small business that could not afford lawyers would be able to sue the federal government and, if they are successful, get their legal fees back. The original act placed limits of $2 million of net worth for individuals and $7 million on for-profit business and organizations to qualify.
In 2002, the rules were changed and the limits were removed from non-profit organizations. By 2010, the WildEarth Guardians had filed at least 180 lawsuits and their net worth had increased 1,020 percent.
They are just warming up. The Center for Biological Diversity filed 409 suits and the Sierra Club filed 983 suits during the same period. The government does not keep track of payments, but it is estimated that $4.7 billion has been paid out in total to date.
The above is all part of the public record, the following is just my opinion and not necessarily Rio Blanco County policy.
The WildEarth Guardians are pseudo-environmentalists. They do not care about the people of Rio Blanco County nor do they want to be part of the community. They are outsiders looking for a way to make a quick buck off of us then will move on to some other place.
If they truly cared about the environment they would sue the BLM to gather wild horses to bring them into compliance with the Appropriate Management Level instead of trying to remove livestock. They would sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service to require predator control and management of pinion/juniper encroachment for the benefit of sage grouse instead of trying to control people. They would also pay for research into rehabilitation of mining operations and well locations in oil shale areas for the benefit of endangered plants instead of trying to stop any projects in those areas.
They would be pushing for methane wells on coal mines instead of trying to shut them down. They are not interested in solutions to problems that would allow humans to co-exist with the environment, contention is how they earn a living.
Jon D. Hill
Rio Blanco County
Board of Commissioners