Guest Column

Federal policies lack common sense

By Khale lenhart
Posted 5/10/22

The federal government’s environmental policies are disconnected from common sense and serve only to increase tension and decrease trust in the federal government. Two recent announcements from …

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Guest Column

Federal policies lack common sense


The federal government’s environmental policies are disconnected from common sense and serve only to increase tension and decrease trust in the federal government. Two recent announcements from the federal government illustrate the problem for Wyoming’s natural resource-based economy.

The federal government announced this month it would resume federal oil and gas leasing — including multiple parcels in Wyoming — although in a much-reduced capacity compared to times past. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it is a marked reduction to what the federal government could be doing and has done before.

Federal lease sales follow a specific process: The federal government, through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), announces a sale in a particular area; those interested in leasing in the area nominate specific parcels, and after review of the nominations, the BLM offers some of the nominated parcels for sale at auction. Historically, sales happened quarterly and of the parcels nominated, the BLM would offer a far higher percentage at auction than we will see at the upcoming auction.

One example: In 2019, 719 parcels were nominated for lease in Wyoming and 527 were offered at auction — meaning around 72% of nominations result in leases. In the most recent announcement, the BLM announced it would offer only about 20% of nominated parcels for lease — and at a higher royalty rate than in years past. Nationwide, only 173 parcels will be offered up, including 129 in Wyoming. While something is certainly better than nothing, this unnecessarily low level of federal leasing shows the federal government is more interested in performance than policy.

The Biden administration is trying to play both sides of an issue without considering what is best for America. Environmental activists have decried the resumption of leasing and championed the cancellation of lease auctions largely based on climate change and emissions grounds. Although not explicitly cited as the reason for failing to offer parcels for lease, it is difficult to imagine this was not a major basis for the Biden administration’s decision to cancel lease sales. The administration now wants to be seen as doing something to address gas prices while still appeasing those who oppose oil and gas production as a whole.   

Oil is a global market. This means reductions in drilling in Wyoming or other places in America do not result in lower amounts of oil in the marketplace. If domestic production dips, it is made up for by increased drilling elsewhere. Refusing to offer federal oil and gas leases does nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or other potential pollutants — it merely moves their source to another country. If anything, domestic production — where we have more control over safety and emission standards — is likely to be the best option for minimizing environmental impacts. Rather than protect the environment, the Biden administration’s oil and gas leasing decisions so far have merely been an attempt to placate a particular interest group at the expense of America and Wyoming’s well-being.

The federal government, this time through the EPA, made another announcement this week that flies in the face of common sense. For example, the greater Denver area has dealt with increasing smog and air quality issues in recent years. One air-quality monitoring station recently concluded that about 1% of the Denver area’s airborne particulate matter originated in Wyoming. This amounts to less than 1 part per billion of particulate matter in the air. However, due to this, the EPA is now proposing to impose more stringent emissions standards on Wyoming, even though the state already regulates its own emissions standards.  

Simply put, Wyoming is not the problem when it comes to Denver’s air quality. The burden that new federal regulation would place on Wyoming far outweighs the negligible change to Denver air-quality issues resulting from the regulations. Even if the EPA entirely shut down Wyoming, such that no emissions began here, the impact on Denver would be unnoticeable. Instead, this merely reflects the federal government failing to consider the real-world impacts of its policies.

Wyoming residents often say we need to push back against the federal government. Policies like these show why that sentiment makes sense.


(Khale J. Lenhart is a partner at the law firm Hirst Applegate in Cheyenne, where he has practiced since 2011. He is a former chairman of the Laramie County Republican Party.)

Guest Column