Nineteen state attorneys generals met in Oklahoma City on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss and plan their response to what they see as federal regulations encroaching on state regulatory authority.
The event was organized by the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University and hosted by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has said fighting to make sure federal officials don't exceed their constitutional authority is one of his most important duties.
Pruitt said Thursday that federal regulations are threatening the country's growing oil and natural gas boom. He said the boom could lead the country to energy independence within the next 10 years.
“The only impediment we see on the horizon is ourselves,” Pruitt said. “We've placed legal barriers and regulatory barriers on our industry that are duplicative. You see the federal government seeking to displace the states when the states already have a regulatory framework in place.”
William F. Whitsitt, Devon Energy Corp.'s executive vice president of public affairs, was among the energy industry representatives who participated in part of the two-day event.
“Our message from the industry perspective was to be careful that we don't impede economic development and this energy revolution by misplaced reliance on the assumption that the federal government knows best or has authority over the states in these areas.”
The meetings included 16 Republican attorneys general and three Democrats. The sessions focused on environmental issues and the coal, oil and natural gas industries.
Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers said environmental laws are designed so that the states have the authority to set regulatory standards.
“Our framers set up a separation of powers between the federal and state government,” Suthers said. “In the eight years I have been attorney general, there has been an erosion of that cooperative federalism. More and more, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and other federal agencies are usurping the prerogatives given to the states.”
The meetings were closed to the public, except for a news conference after the final session.
“We did not want this to be a political event,” Pruitt said. “This was not to garner attention. This was intended to be a working session where attorneys general could spend time learning together and creating strategy. It's difficult to do that in a media or political event.”
Pruitt and Suthers have worked together on states' rights issues before.
The two are among 28 state attorneys general who have sued in an effort to stop federally mandated health insurance, commonly referred to as Obamacare.