May 31 2019

In our dreams …

by Caren Cowan, Executive Director, New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association
Read this article & more in New Mexico Stockman Magazine

According to Michael Bastasch, Energy Editor for the Daily Caller, the Interior Department will publicly list attorneys’ fees paid out, often to environmental activist groups, for legal settlements, says a recent memo from Principal Deputy Solicitor Daniel Jorjani.

Jorjani’s memo states the Interior Department will develop a web page within 30 days to publicly list details of legal settlements and cases, which the agency says is a big step in bringing sunshine to a non-transparent practice that the public is largely unaware is happening.

The memo in response to a 2018 order from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt while he served as former Secretary Ryan Zinke’s number two. Environmental groups have been particularly successful using “citizen suits” to sue the federal government into taking an action, then getting taxpayers to pay their attorneys’ fees. A 2016 Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found federal agencies paid out $49 million for 512 citizen suits filed under three major environmental laws during the Obama administration.

There’s also the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), which was enacted in 1980 to help people, small businesses and groups recoup the costs of defending their rights in court. Groups can get EAJA attorneys’ fees awarded by suing under environmental laws.

The EAJA caps what agencies can pay out for attorneys’ fees at roughly $200 per hour, and the law stipulates payments should only go to individuals or groups with a net worth under $7 million.

The Interior Department is a frequent target of environmental litigation. Groups often sue under the ESA to get the agency to, for example, consider listing a species. When litigation ends, environmentalists can get their attorneys’ fees paid at taxpayer expense whether or not they win.

The group Earthjustice, for example, raked in more than $2.3 million from taxpayers suing the Interior Department under the ESA, TheDCNF found in 2016. Earthjustice is also financially well-endowed — the group’s net assets totaled $68 million in 2015.

Another group, the Center for Biological Diversity, has sued the Trump administration alone more than 100 times, including to stop the building of a southern border wall. The center has also won attorneys’ fees from the Interior Department despite having $19 million in net assets as of 2016.

Often “citizen suits” result in federal agencies, like the Interior Department, taking more regulatory actions favored by environmental activists. Critics say such lawsuits allow activists to profit off pushing their agenda in the courts.

“EAJA was never intended to be used to make a profit from suing the federal government, but only as an attorneys’ fees reimbursement for small businesses and individuals who have to sue the federal government to protect their rights,” the Interior official said.

This is an issue that the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMGCA) has worked on for years.

The Association greatly appreciates this step by the Department of the Interior.

New Mexico State Beef Checkoff

As we have mentioned, a voluntary second dollar for the Beef Council was passed in the 2019 Legislature and signed by the Governor. There will be a rule-making process. To that end, the following notice has been posted on the State Register:

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the New Mexico Beef Council will hold a public rulemaking hearing on June 27, 2019. The hearing will begin at 3:00 p.m. at the State Bar of New Mexico (5121 Masthead St. NE,Classroom. The purpose of the rulemaking hearing is to consider a rule to reestablish the New Mexico Beef Council’s State Assessment (Council Assessment). The administrative record will be utilized by the Council in adopting a final rule.

Purpose: The purpose of this proposed rule is to provide regulations for collection, refund and opt out of the New Mexico Beef Council State Assessment as defined in Section 77-2A-7.1 NMSA 1978. The proposed rule will be added to the New Mexico Administrative Code as: 21.35.7 NMAC – NM Beef Council State Assessment (Council Assessment) Collection Procedures.

Details for Obtaining a Copy, Public Hearing and Comments: The proposed rules are available at New Mexico Beef Council, 1209 Mountain Road Place NE, Suite C, Albuquerque, NM 87110. The proposed rules are also posted on the NMBC website, NMBeef.com under the Rancher/Dairy Farmer Tab, State Assessment. To request that a copy of the proposed rules be sent to you by mail or e-mail, please contact StateAssessment@NMBeef.com or 1-505/841-9407.

A public hearing will be held at 3:00 p.m. at the State Bar of New Mexico (5121 Masthead St. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109) in the Keleher Classroom. Any person who is or may be affected by this proposed rule may appear and testify. Interested persons may submit written comments to NMBC at 1209 Mountain Road Place NE, Suite C, Albuquerque, NM 87110 or StateAssessment@NMBeef.com. Written comments must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on June 26, 2019. Please note that any written comments received will become part of the rulemaking record. If submitting written comments by email, please indicate in the subject line the number and section of each rule(s) for which you are providing comments. Oral comments will also be accepted at the rule hearing, subject to time limitations. Legal authority for this rulemaking can be found in Section 28-10-2 NMSA 1978.

Any person with a disability who is in need of a reader, amplifier, qualified sign language interpreter, or auxiliary aid or service to attend or participate in the hearing should contact 1-505/841-9407 or email StateAssessment@NMBeef.com at least ten (10) business days prior to the hearing.

The NMCGA will be preparing draft comments. Watch your email or come to the Mid-Year Meeting in Ruidoso June 9 through 11!

Thanks to NMCGA’s latest Premier Sponsor!

The NMCGA is proud to announce that the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association (NMOGA) has signed on as a Premier Sponsor of the NMCGA and its programs. It becomes increasingly clear that natural resource users are to rise or fall as a group.

It is well known that from time to time agriculture and oil and gas don’t see eye to eye on some issues. Over the past few years both NMCGA and NMOGA have worked together to address those issues and look forward to ever better relationships.

Reality Check

Financial and logistical support for border communities coping with an influx of asylum-seeking migrants (illegal immigrants) are on the agenda as the governor of New Mexico travels to Washington to meet with federal officials, according to a Las Cruces Sun Times story by Isabella Solis with contributions from Diana Alba Soular published in late May.

The two-day visit to the nation’s capital by Lujan Grisham was include a meeting with acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, said Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for the governor.

Lujan Grisham will advocate for federal reimbursements to communities as they provide humanitarian relief to migrant (illegal immigrant) families.

Lujan also announced that New Mexico will offer grants to reimburse local government agencies that provide humanitarian aid. State lawmakers recently set aside $2.5 million for border security. The governor’s office declined to specify how much money is available.

“It is our duty as a state, in the absence of a comprehensive shift in strategy and personnel deployment on the part of the federal government, to accommodate and facilitate the needs of both these asylum seekers and the local communities where they are being released,” Lujan Grisham said in a letter to Republican state lawmakers, who have criticized her approach to immigration pressures.

Democrat-led cities including Las Cruces and Albuquerque have embraced humanitarian relief efforts, while the Sierra County Commission approved a resolution recently that opposes the relocation of migrants within county boundaries, citing the area’s own impoverished circumstances and the potential for migrants to get stranded in towns that don’t have bus, rail or commercial flight service.

Stelnicki said Lujan Grisham also wants to discuss with U.S. officials the withdrawal of the U.S. Border Patrol from interior checkpoints in southern New Mexico. The closures have riled residents, prompting an emergency declaration by Otero County commissioners urging the state to intervene.

Communities in the south of the state are “taking on a lot of the cost of a federal problem, stepping into the breach,” Stelnicki said.

Lujan Grisham previously challenged President Trump’s description of a security crisis on the border as she withdrew all but a dozen national guardsmen who continue to address humanitarian needs in a remote corridor along the border.

Las Cruces, where more than 6,000 migrants have been dropped off by Border Patrol since April 12, has approved $575,000 in spending on aid for migrants from a hospital trust account.

The city and faith-based groups are providing temporary shelter, clothing, food and sanitary supplies to asylum seekers, who typically stay for one or two nights before departing to join family and other sponsors throughout the U.S.

As Las Cruces struggles to keep up, migrants have been dropped in the smaller community of Deming and bused — in one instance — to Denver.

A dozen Republican legislators have urged Lujan Grisham to reverse course and deploy more National Guard troops to the border. The governor says troops are a costly, inappropriate option.

A meeting with U.S. Health & Human Services officials was being sought regarding resources for medical attention for migrants (illegal immigrants).

These actions of Governor to obtain federal assistance are welcomed by rural New Mexicans who are suffering from the humanitarian crisis on both sides of the border.    

Source: New Mexico Stockman, June 2018