The U.S. Senate on March 7 revoked a rule that aimed to give the public more input into federal land management decisions, the latest move by the Republican-led Congress to undo Obama administration environmental regulations.
The Senate voted 51-48 to approve a resolution to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s Resource Management Planning rule, known as BLM 2.0, finalized in December by the Obama administration.
Senators who voted to revoke the rule, such as Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said it diluted local authority over decisions about how to use land for grazing, energy and mineral development and recreation, and gave outside voices an outsized say in local matters.
Supporters, such as the energy committee's top Democrat, Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, said the rule modernized the existing BLM process to make it more transparent.
“When it comes to public lands, we want transparency, we want sunshine, we want a bottom-up approach when it comes to land management,” Cantwell said.
Dan Naatz, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) senior vice president of government relations and political affairs, issued a statement late in the afternoon March 7 saying, “The BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule presents a number of challenges that will discourage multiple use interests and sway against oil and gas resources on public lands. The impacts of this rule will impose a significant and harmful burden on individual operators and the industry as a whole. The mitigation standard of a net benefit, or net conservation gain, is policymaking that has been put in place through recent Executive and Secretarial directives and memorandums, and is not based upon laws or rules that have gone through the lawmaking or rulemaking process. This new standard is inconsistent with a balanced, multiple use concept of federal lands and conflicts with the realities of current oil and natural gas development which, due to technological advances in horizontal drilling, has a vastly reduced footprint—in some cases up to 70 percent or more—on federal lands.”
Republicans have taken advantage of a seldom-used law known as the Congressional Review Act to overturn the BLM 2.0 rule as well as other recently enacted regulations with simple majorities in both chambers, denying senators the opportunity to filibuster and stall a vote.
Some conservation groups said using the CRA to revoke the measure was a "knee-jerk" and unnecessary measure, and that the land planning rule could have been revised by the BLM.
"I struggle to understand why they would waste their time trying to strike down this rule and why not let the administration fix the rule," said Phil Hanceford of the Wilderness Society.
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