The Department of the Interior will block new mining leasesoutside Yellowstone National Park for at least two years asregulators consider a longer ban.
The department’s announcement came just days after closingArctic offshore areas and canceling dozens of oil and gas drillingleases.
“There are good places to mine for gold, but the doorstep ofYellowstone National Park is not one of them,” Secretary of theInterior Sally Jewell said, according to prepared remarks of the formal announcementobtained by The Associated Press.
Two companies, Luck Minerals and Crevice Mining Group, appliedfor permission to mine on a 30,000-acre parcel of land just northof Yellowstone National Park that has had a long history of beingmined.
But backlash from environmentalists and some locals prompted theInterior Department to impose a two-year ban on mining in theregion.
Jewell’s decision doesn’t explicitly block Lucky or Crevice frommining the region, since their deals are on private lands, but thetemporary ban will make it much more difficult to expand the minesto federal lands.
The Yellowstone mining ban is just the latest in a string ofdecisions choking off natural resource extraction on federallands.
The Interior Department announced Friday it would not include Arctic sea zones in its newest five-year plan foroffshore drilling. That same day, Jewell said she would cancel 25oil and natural gas leases in the White River National Forest.
Environmentalists cheered the announcements; industry groups andRepublicans railed against the decision.
“With this action, the Obama Administration is once againcapitulating to the demands of extreme environmental groups overAlaskans and their fellow Americans who want good-paying jobs,energy independence and a strong economy,” Alaska Republican Sen.Dan Sullivan said in a statement. “For nearly eight years thisAdministration has given lip service to an ‘all of the above energystrategy,’ when their actions say the opposite.”
The Obama administration’s last minute rules could be overturnedby President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican Congress.
Trump may decide to scrap Interior’s current five-year plan andstart the process anew, and Congress could use the CongressionalReview Act to overturn other Obama rules restricting energy andmining operations on federal lands.
Experts have found at least 150 rules Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress canundo using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). That process,however, could take months.
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