Biden administration relies on erroneous expansion of McGirt decision
OKLAHOMA CITY (July 19, 2021) – Governor Kevin Stitt, working with the Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Interior, Secretary Deb Halaand and other Biden administration officials for unlawfully attempting to strip Oklahoma of its jurisdiction to regulate surface coal mining and reclamation operations.
“The Department of the Interior and other defendants in this case are dead wrong about their decision,” Governor Stitt said. “They are attempting to unlawfully federalize mines that have been regulated by Oklahoma for almost 40 years by ignoring the clear limitations in the McGirt decision. Despite multiple attempts at dialogue, the Biden Interior Department has refused to adequately explain their legal position. The state of Oklahoma has no choice but to pursue legal action.”
According to the lawsuit, numerous steps are required before the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement can take over a state program. None were followed.
“The federal court should stop the Biden administration’s improper act in its tracks and declare that jurisdiction remains with the state,” Stitt continued.
“This action ignores the law and the reality that Oklahoma has managed these operations for decades,” said Oklahoma Solicitor General Mithun Mansinghani. “The administration’s action jeopardizes the safe operation of coal mining and mine reclamation, state funding, and the jobs of state employees that have been performing this work for many years.”
Specifically, the lawsuit argues the Department of the Interior is relying on a novel and erroneous expansion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which was explicitly limited to the application of federal criminal law under the Major Crimes Act.
A copy of the lawsuit is available here: https://www.oag.ok.gov/sites/g/files/gmc766/f/complaint.pdf.