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The House GOP Just Passed A Slew Of ‘Extreme’ Bills

Never missing an opportunity to make life easier for extractive industries, House Republicans passed a suite of bills this week to boost development and dismantle environmental protections across millions of acres of federal land.

The bills stand little chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but they give GOP industry allies something to tout heading into the 2024 elections. And since several of the measures across more than 13 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve on Alaska’s North Slope. It also requires the Interior Department to reissue all Trump-era oil and gas leases in Alaska’s fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which the Biden administration canceled last year.

  • H.R. 3195 would rescind the Biden administration’s 20-year ban on new mineral development across 225,000 acres of national forest land adjacent to Minnesota’s iconic Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It also would reinstate canceled leases to Chilean mining giant Antofagasta in an effort to rubber stamp the company’s controversial plans for a $1.7 billion underground copper-nickel mine on the doorstep of one of the most visited wilderness areas in the country, as well as block judicial review of any mining leases and permits in the region.
  • H.R. 3397 would require the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw a new rule aimed at balancing conservation and ecosystem restoration with traditional land uses, including drilling, mining, logging and grazing. It would also prevent America’s largest land manager from proposing or finalizing any similar rule in the future.
  • H.R. 764, dubbed the Trust the Science Act, would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue a Trump administration rule that stripped gray wolves of protections under the Endangered Species Act. Like other bills in the package, it blocks judicial review.
  • H.R. 615 would largely bar federal agencies from prohibiting the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands and waters.
  • Their passage, mostly along party lines, followed hours of fiery debate on the House floor, during which Republicans accused Democrats and the Biden administration of advancing the agenda of “radical environmentalists,” and Democrats condemned the GOP as being beholden to polluters and special interests.

    A wolf from the Snake River Pack passes by a remote camera in Wallowa County, Oregon, in 2014. One of the bills in the package requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue a Trump administration rule that stripped gray wolves of protections under the Endangered Species Act.
    A wolf from the Snake River Pack passes by a remote camera in Wallowa County, Oregon, in 2014. One of the bills in the package requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue a Trump administration rule that stripped gray wolves of protections under the Endangered Species Act.

    via Associated Press

    One of the more contentious debates centered on the bill to block the Bureau of Land Management’s new rule to boost conservation on federal lands, which confronts the agency’s long legacy of prioritizing drilling, mining and other extractive uses. Republicans painted the Biden administration rule as an unconstitutional federal “land grab” and an attack on Western communities.

    “This rule is a poorly concealed effort to lock up more lands to advance the Biden administration’s radical 30×30 agenda,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, referring to the administration’s goal to conserve 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. “This rule would fundamentally upend more than 50 years of land management practices across the West that rural communities have relied on for their livelihoods.”

    Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) repeatedly stressed that Westerman and other Republican colleagues were mischaracterizing what the rule does.

    “One need look no further than the plain language,” Neguse said. “The rule says that it’s putting conservation on par with these other uses. Grazing is allowed under the rule. Oil and gas development is allowed under the rule. Conservation is allowed under the rule. If my colleagues don’t want conservation considered by the [Bureau of Land Management] with respect to how these lands are managed, which is clearly what they believe, then they should just say so. Just be candid with the American people that they don’t think these lands should be managed with conservation in mind at all.”

    Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said the entire raft of bills “misses the mark.”

    “It elevates right-wing ideology over the actual needs of the American people,” he said.

    Ahead of the votes, the League of Conservation Voters, a progressive environmental advocacy organization, put lawmakers on notice that supporting the bills would likely factor into its forthcoming environmental scorecard for members of Congress.

    These extreme bills are a gift to Big Polluters and would have devastating impacts on our country’s public lands and waters, and wildlife at the expense of the climate and our communities,” America Fitzpatrick, LCV’s conservation program director, said in a statement.

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