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Trump administration cancels Obama-era environmental review

Trump administration cancels Obama-era environmental review
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The Trump administration has decided to cancel an Obama-era environmental review on how blocking hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Minnesota from mining would impact the surrounding wilderness, The Washington Post reported Friday.

The review has been downgraded to an assessment, a less demanding level of review.

The study was ordered during the final days of the Obama administration, as the Interior Department started a two-year ban on mineral extraction in the 230,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in Minnesota.

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Interior officials had also announced a plan to determine whether a 20-year ban on mining in the area should be implemented.

However, the decision to cancel the more thorough review comes a month after President TrumpDonald TrumpDC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' Taylor Greene defends 'America First' effort, pushes back on critics MORE’s Interior Department announced it would renew mining licenses for a major Chilean mining company in the area next to the forest land.

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeGreitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP Missouri Senate candidate Eric Greitens tangles with Hugh Hewitt in testy interview Overnight Energy: Interior finalizes plan to open 80 percent of Alaska petroleum reserve to drilling | Justice Department lawyers acknowledge presidential transition in court filing | Trump admin pushes for permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff MORE had met last year with supporters of Twin Metals Minnesota, a branch of the Chilean mining company.

A spokesperson for the Forest Service defended the move in a statement obtained by The Hill.

“This decision lives up to the USDA Forest Service’s commitment to conduct a thorough environmental analysis of the Rainy River watershed, within the two year period, that relies on sound science and fully engages the public," the spokesperson said.

"Completing an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act accomplishes these goals and was informed by more than 90,000 comments we received from citizens.”

The Interior Department’s plan to cancel the review was ripped by Rep. Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumProgressive lawmaker to introduce bill seeking more oversight of Israel assistance Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike MORE (D-Minn.), who is among Democrats who fear mining could pollute water sources in the region.

“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke cares more about helping mining conglomerates than about protecting the [Boundary Waters Canoe Area],” McCollum said in a statement to the Post. “This decision is yet another part of the Trump agenda to turn our public lands and natural treasures into industrial wastelands for private profit.”

Updated: 4:04 p.m.