Thursday, December 04, 2008

BLM removes veto rule on mining

BLM is releasing a Final Rule tomorrow morning that removes the authority for congressional committees to make emergency withdrawal of public lands from mining. The ruling retains a procedure whereby the Secretary of Interior can still initiate an emergency withdrawal to protect natural resources. [right, uranium core drill rig in northern Arizona. Credit, Vane Minerals]

This action is in response to the action led by Rep. Raul Grijalva's committee to halt uranium exploration on federal lands near the boundary of the Grand Canyon National Park. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said the committee vote was not procedurally correct and ignored the withdrawal order. BLM then issued the proposed rule deleting reference to Congress's ability to take this action and gave a 15-day comment period.

AP quotes Grijalva as saying today, "I will continue to fight this rule change and all midnight regulations to roll back protections for our environment which are coming down the pike before the new administration is sworn in."

The recent House vote was apparently only the 4th time in history that such an emergency withdrawal was made, with the last time being 1983.

Watch the fireworks on this issue in the next couple of days and how it plays out in the presidential transition.

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