Senate mulls striking down BLM rule – Casper Star Tribune
By, Heather Richards
The U.S. Senate considered striking down the Bureau of Land Management’s new rule-making protocol, BLM 2.0, on Monday night, in a continued attempt to purge Obama-era regulations.
The dry federal process has become the topic of heated debate as conservative leaders try to cut back on federal oversight and advocates for the environment and recreation cry foul.
Congressional leaders from Wyoming introduced the rule for the chopping block in January under the Congressional Review Act, which can strip 11th-hour regulations of an outgoing presidential agenda with a simple majority vote in each house and the signature of the president.
The resolution of dissent on BLM 2.0 passed in the House days after being introduced by Rep. Liz Cheney and is now awaiting consideration in the Senate.
The Senate was scheduled to vote on whether to proceed with the rule’s consideration Monday night. The final decision was not available by press time.
BLM 2.0 is a reform of the federal agency’s 1983 protocol on public involvement in the regulation process. It was passed in December, during the last leg of the Obama administration. If 2.0 is eliminated, the federal agency may revert to the 34-year-old method for the foreseeable future, as the CRA prohibits rehashing a rule that’s been struck down. It could also revert to an early 2000s version that amended the 1983 rule.
Those in favor of cutting the rule see it as part of the state-versus-federal debate on land management. Under the previous president, a burdensome bureaucracy grew exponentially, they say.
“Planning 2.0 represents a federal power grab that ignores expert knowledge and undermines the ability of state and local governments to effectively manage resources and land use inside their own districts,” said Cheney in a January statement before proposing an end to the rule. The congresswoman’s stance on the rule has not changed in the weeks since.
“BLM 2.0 was a misguided and damaging attempt by the Obama administration to undermine the rights of state and local governments to manage resources and land use inside their own districts,” she said in a statement. “I was honored to introduce the bill repealing 2.0 in the House, and very pleased that it passed. I’m hopeful the Senate will pass this important bill so we can begin to restore the rights and authority of Wyoming communities, citizens, and industry.”
Sen. Mike Enzi told the Star-Tribune in a recent interview that he believed there was a reasonable role for federal agencies like the BLM and the Environmental Protection Agency to play in Wyoming but that states were best placed to regulate their various industries or protect environmental interests on the ground. Enzi was the first lawmaker to use the CRA to repeal an outgoing president’s action, after Bill Clinton’s presidency in 2001. It hadn’t been used since.
The planning rule is one of a handful that are now being considered for repeal using the CRA. A law mandating stricter environmental protections for streams near coal production was struck down by the CRA in February.
Those in favor of BLM 2.0 are flummoxed by its inclusion in the debate over federal strong-arming. The rule went through a two-year vetting process, was considered in two congressional sessions and was the subject of multiple public comment periods.
Those in favor say the political argument against the rule, that it undermines public control of federal regulations, is far from the truth.
The rule is mistakenly enmeshed in politics, as current leaders push back against the work of previous Democratic leaders, said Chamois Andersen, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation.
BLM 2.0 shouldn’t qualify as political maneuvering, she said. Under these new guidelines, the public is involved in crafting a rule on federal lands from the outset, she said.
Before 2.0, only the BLM and cooperating agencies could see a proposed rule until a public draft was published, sometimes years later, she added.
As a result, public individuals from industry, wildlife organizations or recreationists on public land were unaware of the direction of a rule until its parameters were all but established. That system introduced the possibility for lawsuits, lengthy critiques and reworking of a rule, she said.
Some of the confusion over 2.0 may be attributed to the changes in public land management over the years, Andersen explained.
There has been a move toward ecosystem-based management on federal lands instead of species- or region-based management. That has led to the misconception that regulations are more restrictive, when the opposite is correct, she said.
BLM 2.0 allows officials to be more flexible, identifying the richest areas for oil and development, while securing areas where conservation is needed for wildlife or streams protected for anglers, Andersen argued.
If more congressional leaders were familiar with how the rule works and what it accomplishes, many with concerns now would likely come to support it, she said.