House passes bill to block Obama land planning rule

House passes bill to block Obama land planning rule

The House passed a resolution Tuesday to undo an Obama administration rule for public lands that opponents say gives the federal government too much power. 

Members voted 234-186 to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to strip the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) "Planning 2.0" rule from the books. 

BLM officials finalized the rule in December, aiming to reorganize the federal government’s land planning and management strategies. Opponents of the rule — including many conservatives in the West, where the federal government has large public lands holdings — say the rule centralizes too much power within the federal government, stripping management decisions away from local leaders and landowners. 

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“This rule takes authority away from those who know best what we need to do to manage and sustain our resources, and it puts it in the hands of the federal government and bureaucrats here in Washington, D.C.,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the resolution’s sponsor, said during floor debate Tuesday. 

Conservation groups and most Democrats support the rule, saying it would update decades-old guidelines within the Interior Department and disputing GOP claims that it would diminish input from individuals and local governments. 

In a letter to lawmakers on Monday, 13 groups noted that CRA resolutions prevent agencies from writing similar rules in the future, meaning BLM’s management policies could be frozen for years. 

“Ditching this rule means replacing the public's voice with special interests' priorities,” Western Values Project Director Chris Saeger said in a statement. 

“If Congress wants to return to a system that was plagued with lawsuits, conflict, and the outsized influence of big oil companies then this is the way to go. If they want to maintain a system that allows for both energy development and protecting public lands, then they should keep Planning 2.0."

The BLM resolution was one of three CRA measures the House passed on Tuesday, alongside bills to block education rules finalized under Obama.

Last week, the House used the CRA to halt Obama rules on coal mining, financial disclosures for fossil fuel firms and natural gas production. The Senate approved the first two of those measures, meaning Trump’s signature will effectively kill those regulations.

Tuesday's floor debate over the BLM resolution played into the broader fight over public lands. 

Cheney said the rule is “yet one more example of Obama-era federal government overreach” that “takes authority away from people in local communities.”

But Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said Republican complaints about the measure are misguided.

“It’s time to face the facts: Congressional Republicans do not value our nation’s public lands the way everyday Americans do,” he said.

“The American public does not support erasing the planning rule, and they certainly don’t support the broad, anti-public land agenda being pushed by Republicans.”