Research & Commentary: North Dakota Federal Environmental Law Impact Review Fund

Bette Grande Heartland Institute
Published May 11, 2015

The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed a new law to form a committee to review federal legislation and agency regulations that detrimentally impact, or have the potential to detrimentally impact, the state’s agricultural, coal, and/or oil production sectors.

This legislation would establish a committee made of members of the state government, agricultural associations, coal industry, stockmen’s association, and the energy and oil production sectors with the North Dakota agricultural commissioner serving as the chair. The committee would study, research, and assess the impacts of federal regulations on each area and conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the regulation would impede the state’s agricultural, coal, and oil production sectors.

State Rep. Mike Brandenburg (R- Edgeley), the main sponsor of the bill, said, “The significance of this legislation is that the three major industries of agriculture, coal, and oil production found common ground to work together, side by side, to deal with the environmental issues in this state. It is good to see all sides standing together to help the state prosper.”

During debate, the legislature heard testimony about the impact of litigation by environmental activist groups against North Dakota’s agriculture and energy industries. One tactic referred to was “sue & settle,” in which activists use the federal government and the court system to force restrictions on the energy and agriculture industries without congressional approval.

As a response to these tactics, the bill would give the State Industrial Commission $2.5 million in litigation funding to be used at the recommendation of the state’s attorney general to fund participation in administrative or judicial processes pertaining to such regulations. This would allow the committee members, and the industries they represent, to participate in any litigation deemed necessary based on the legislative intent of the protection of the state’s rights, landowners’ rights, the state’s industries, and the public concern for the environment.

Federal regulations can be just as significant a barrier to economic growth as taxes. The North Dakota bill represents an important first step at the state level, which can serve as a model for other states in protecting state sovereignty.

The following articles examine the effects of federal environmental regulation from multiple perspectives.

Ten Principles of Energy Policy
Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast outlines the ten most important principles for policymakers confronting energy issues, providing guidance to deal with ongoing changes in markets, technology, and policies adopted in other states, supported by a thorough bibliography.

Eco-Sanity: A Common-Sense Guide to Environmentalism
In Chapter Six of Eco-Sanity: A Common-Sense Guide to Environmentalism, authors Joseph Bast, P. J. Hill, and Richard Rue examine the Endangered Species Act (ESA). There is no doubt the law has protected many plants and animals from being killed or injured, the authors write. However, they note, the lack of progress on species being removed from the endangered list indicates the net effect of the law has not been positive. ESA creates distorted incentives for property owners to avert government intervention by intentionally making their land uninhabitable for the creatures or even killing the animals outright.

Cato Handbook on Policy
The seventh (and most recent) edition of the Cato Handbook on Policy, released in 2009, includes myriad proposals to reduce the size and scope of the federal government. Chapter 44 discusses environmental policies and explains how command-and-control regulations undermine markets and harm taxpayers and the environment.

Policy Tip Sheet: Pro-Environment, Pro-Energy, and Pro-Jobs
This Heartland Institute Policy Tip Sheet demonstrates the best way to support the environment is to support pro-energy policies. Affordable, reliable, and plentiful energy enables us to protect the environment while creating jobs and the goods and services everyone needs. Expensive and unreliable energy doesn’t protect the environment; it actually harms it by being less efficient and more land-intensive. Former Heartland Policy Analyst Taylor Smith outlines five key elements of a pro-environment, pro-energy, and pro-jobs legislative plan national and state elected officials should support.

The Endangered Species Act at 40: Species Profiles
Brian Seasholes, director of the Endangered Species Project at the Reason Foundation, examines the effects of the law. He concludes it has harmed both property owners and endangered species and failed to achieve its stated goal of recovering the populations of species listed as endangered.

Time to Move Beyond ESA to Save Species and Economic Interests
Examining the track record of the Endangered Species Act, Laura Higgins, a research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center and the Hoover Institution, concludes the law has been a failure: “Only 1 percent of species listed have been taken off the endangered or threatened list. And the price per species is high.”

Environmental Regulation Through Litigation
Federal environmental laws allow ordinary citizens to file suits against federal agencies for failing to carry out mandatory provisions of federal laws. Unfortunately, environmental groups routinely use those provisions to impose huge unfunded costs on states, localities, businesses, and individuals, notes Ann Norman of the National Center for Policy Analysis. The group sues and the defending federal agency settles, paying enormous sums to the environmental group, which then funds additional lawsuits.

Federal Regulatory Costs Soared in First Six Months of Year
Budget & Tax News reports on a new study by Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy at the American Action Forum (AAF). AAF found the federal government imposed more than $100 billion in new regulatory costs in just the first six months of 2014, as much as it imposed in all of 2013.

Energy Market Impacts of Recent Federal Regulations on the Electric Power Sector
Energy Ventures Analysis calculates the impact of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan on the U.S. electric power, natural gas, and coal markets and its effect on the average U.S. household if each state meets EPA’s proposed CO2 emission rate targets.

For further information on this and other topics, visit the Environment & Climate News website at, The Heartland Institute’s website at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

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