Interior Dept. Changes Rule to Remove Congress Veto

Excerpts:

In another regulatory action in the waning days of the Bush administration, the Interior Department on Thursday unveiled a new rule that challenges Congress’s authority to prevent mining planned on public lands.

Congress has emergency power to stop mineral development, and has used it six times in the last 32 years. The most recent was in June, when it put a three-year moratorium on uranium mining on one million acres near the Grand Canyon. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has ignored that Congressional directive, saying it was procedurally flawed.

…The revision of the rule eliminates all references to Congressional authority. The revision moved through the often-cumbersome rule-making process with lightning speed; it was proposed in October, and the public was given just 15 days to comment.

The rule seems intended to speed a judicial confrontation on the constitutionality of the 1976 law, and to underscore the Interior Department’s determination to leave public land near Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona open for mineral development.