New radio special examines coal

WORC’s radio project, High Plains News, just release a new special program, MOVING ON, BUT NO WAY GONE: Coal in America.

In this sound-rich, half-hour special from High Plains News - produced in association with Mountain West Voices, West Virginia Public Radio and Allegheny Front - we look at the present and future of coal in America.

You can listen to the program here.

WORC statement on reform of oil and gas regulations

The Bureau of Land Management announced April 17 that it will seek public comment on potential updates to BLM rules on oil and gas royalty rates, rental payments, lease sale minimum bids, civil penalty caps and financial assurances.

This is an important announcement because the federal royalty rate for onshore oil and gas wells has remained unchanged since the 1920s. In addition, it is also a major moment in the push to increase bonds for federal oil and gas wells, which have been insufficiently bonded for decades.

In response to the BLM’s announcement, WORC Chair Bob LeResche issued the following statement:

“BLM proposes to address several important provisions that are intended to ensure that taxpayers receive a fair return for federal oil and gas leases, and to ensure that federal sites are reclaimed and returned to other uses. These updates are long overdue and we hope BLM moves quickly to put new rules in place.

“The federal onshore oil and gas royalty rate is lower than those of many western states, including Wyoming. There’s no question that an increase is needed to ensure that taxpayers receive a fair return for federally owned oil and gas.

“Wyoming’s Powder River Basin is a great example of why it’s so important for BLM to update its reclamation bonding requirements. The state has thousands of orphaned wells and unreclaimed sites. Companies have literally disappeared, closing up shop in the middle of the night, leaving taxpayers liable for reclamation costs and landowners stuck with dangerous, contaminated industrial sites on their land. BLM’s current bond amounts — just $25,000 for all of a company’s wells in a state or $150,000 for all of its wells nationwide — have not been updated for over 50 years and are far too low.”

Urge Congress to reject fast track for new trade deals

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced a bill to allow huge new foreign trade deals to be “fast tracked” through Congress without a full debate and no right to offer amendments.

It's essentially a rubber-stamp for back-room trade deals that have been negotiated with corporate lobbyists, with the American people completely shut out.

Ask your members of Congress to reject fast track for huge new trade deals.

Go to WORC's Action Page.

Job and internship opportunities in WORC network
Tell Obama: Big Coal Should Pay Its Fair Share

Big Coal has cheated American taxpayers for years, and the Obama Administration is finally ready to do something about it. The government is working to close a loophole Big Coal has used to shortchange Americans out of billions of dollars in royalties on public coal.

Click here to support closing the royalty loophole and make Big Coal pay its fair share.

Good Meat Summit in May

WORC is bringing leaders and staff from each of our member groups to join with experts, academics and practitioners for a "Good Meat Summit." The invitation-only Summit will be held May 21-22, 2015, at the Home on the Range.

The Summit will build on WORC's 2014 report, Growing the 16%, which described our thinking about how rural grassroots groups, like those in WORC, can organize locally to expand alternative meat markets as economic options to the 84% of the market controlled by the "Big Four" meatpackers.

The purpose of the Summit is to help us develop a deeper understanding of how to get more “good meat,” raised sustainably by independent, family farmers and ranchers, on the plates of more Western families. We want to test the solutions described in the report, develop a deeper understanding of the challenges, and explore policy options that build or strengthen alternatives to industrial meat.

For more information about the Summit, contact WORC Regional Organizer Liz Stelk.

WORC asks House subcommittee to support Country-of-Origin Labels

On behalf of WORC, Wyoming rancher Wilma Tope submitted written testimony to a March 25 hearing by the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture on Meat Labeling Requirements.

She urged Congress to refrain from weakening country-of-origin labeling (COOL):

“As producers, we believe we have the right to have the country-of-origin displayed on meat we produce. We are proud of our product, and we have a long-held belief that a U. S. label stands for family tradition, quality, pride, and a safe and wholesome product.

“In an increasingly global market, labeling of our beef, as well as other products, will increase demand for U.S. products, which in turn will lead to increased production, more jobs and economic development in our small towns and main streets, and our entire national economy.

“Congress should not short-circuit the WTO process; nor should it unconditionally surrender to the threats of tariff retaliation by our trading partners.

Ranchers, Consumers Applaud Dismissal of COOL Lawsuit

Opponents of the U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) law dropped their case against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Meatpackers and trade groups sought to end the popular labeling law that informs consumers where the meat they buy was born, raised, and slaughtered. 

R-CALF USA, Food & Water Watch, WORC and the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association intervened on behalf of the USDA. This intervention is part of a long campaign to enact, implement and protect COOL.

 “Congress must abandon its efforts to meddle with meat labels, which are overwhelmingly popular with ranchers and consumers,” said Mabel Dobbs, a rancher from Weiser, Idaho, and member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils. “Even the meatpackers have given up now on their effort to stop COOL in the courts. It’s time for Congress to leave these commonsense labels alone.”

Poor return to taxpayers from federal coal royalties

A Headwaters Economics report says taxpayers do not get a fair return on their coal because the effective royalty rate of 4.9 percent is lower than the rate set by law. It is also lower than the rate paid for taxpayer-owned oil and gas.

More than 80 percent of federal coal comes from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming.

Statement by Bob LeResche for WORC and the Powder River Basin Resource Council on the release of “An Assessment of U.S. Federal Coal Royalties - Current Royalty Structure, Effective Royalty Rates, and Reform Options.”

"Headwaters Economics has shown that loopholes in the Department of the Interior coal royalty system have allowed Big Coal to avoid paying the full amount due federal taxpayers. The loss to Americans is substantial – roughly $850 million between 2008 and 2012. This report shows it is past time for Secretary Sally Jewell and Interior to close these loopholes and ensure the public collects the full value of coal royalties. It’s time to start focusing on getting a fair price for our publicly owned coal resource and to begin collecting fair royalties for the American people."

Western Native Voice & Idaho Organization of Resource Councils affiliate with WORC

On Dec. 6, the WORC Board of Directors voted unanimously to accept applications for membership by Western Native Voice and the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils.

“We are pleased to welcome these two groups into the WORC,” said Norm Cimon, outgoing Chair of WORC. “The Idaho Organization of Resource Councils hosts an emerging grassroots base in Idaho, while Western Native Voice extends our engagement with Native Americans communities throughout Montana. Both groups strengthen our regional network and our ability to impact local, state, and national policy decisions.”

Voices from the Bakken - Fighting Back

A snapshot of residents defending their water, land, communities, and families from the harmful effects of booming oil drilling in the Bakken region of northwest North Dakota.

Hydraulic Fracturing Photos

John Fenton and his
neigbors deal with the impacts of gas
drilling and hydraulic fracturing daily.
Click on Learn More to
view photographs.
Who's Your Farmer?

Powder River member Audrey Malan gives thanks for local food and local producers in a High Plains News radio commentary.


Member Group News

North Dakota launches oil rules hoping to curb U.S. rail disasters – New rules "don't cut it," according to Dakota Resource Council (Reuters, April 1, 2015)

Keystone XL Fight Isn’t Over – Dakota Rural Action supports President Obama’s veto of Keystone XL bill. (, Feb. 25, 2015)

As Oil Prices Collapse, North Dakota Considers Weakening Standards of Radioactive Drilling Waste – Dakota Resource Council members concerned about lower standards on radioactive waste. (DESMOGBLOG.COM, Feb. 25, 2015)

More Member Group News


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