Senate revokes Obama federal land-planning rule

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Tuesday 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 it sees as a burden.

Two of a band of wild horses graze in the Nephi Wash area outside Enterprise, Utah, April 10, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

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.

The rule updated the 30-year process the agency followed when developing land-use plans across the 245 million acres of federal land it manages.

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.

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.

Last month, Republicans repealed a securities disclosure rule aimed at curbing corruption at energy and mining companies and voted to ax methane emissions limits on drilling operations using the CRA.

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.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Leslie Adler