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Senate votes to block Obama-era rule on federal land plans

Senate votes to block Obama-era rule on federal land plans

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate approved legislation Tuesday to block an Obama-era regulation that Republicans said could deter development of federal lands and harm local economies in the West.

Senators voted 51-48 to rescind a Bureau of Land Management rule that governs planning for future uses on 245 million acres of federal lands.

The rule required federal land managers to consider climate change and other long-term effects when considering proposed development on public lands, but the rule came under attack from trade groups representing farmers and the oil and gas industries.

Republicans have made it a top priority to overturn several regulations issued in the final months of President Barack Obama's administration. They have introduced dozens of resolutions disapproving Obama-era rules.

The House had already voted to reject the BLM planning rule. The Senate vote sends the measure to President Donald Trump, who so far, has signed into law three resolutions rolling back Obama-era rules.

Supporters said the rule updated a planning process put in place 30 years ago and provided more opportunity for local input. "This is not a rule that regulates any specific use on public land, it does not restrict any particular activity," said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

But Republican lawmakers disagreed about what the final result of the rule would be. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the BLM rule would "cost us jobs. It will cost us economic opportunity."

The Center for Western Priorities, an environmental advocacy group, said that lands across the West will now be guided by antiquated planning rules that frequently shut out the public.

"At the urging of oil and gas lobbyists, politicians in Washington have voted to undermine a policy whose central goal is increasing public participation in public lands management," said the group's deputy director, Greg Zimmerman.

The American Petroleum Institute applauded the Senate vote. The API's Erik Milito called the vote "an important step in creating certainty in the regulation of oil and gas in America, and restoring BLM land management for multiple uses as Congress intended."