1) Sell off The American West? Small Rules Change Could Have Far-Reaching Impact:
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2) From E&E News (www.eenews.net)
|Emily Yehle, E&E News reporter|
|Published: Tuesday, January 3, 2017|
House Republicans plan to consider federal land transfers cost-free, laying the groundwork for efforts to convey tracts to states.
The change is part of the House rules package expected to pass the chamber today. It would mean that lawmakers would no longer have to find spending offsets for bills that transfer federal land to state or tribal entities.
The new rule dictates that any bill provision, amendment or conference report that conveys federal land "shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending, or increasing outlays." The Congressional Budget Office currently estimates the cost of federal land conveyances by calculating the loss of revenue from activities like drilling, logging and grazing.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, called the change "fiscally irresponsible." CBO's cost estimates, he said, are already too low; in the past, he has pressed for CBO to also include the lost value of recreational and ecosystem services (E&E Daily, Jan. 20, 2016).
"The House Republican plan to give away America's public lands for free is outrageous and absurd," he said. "This proposed rule change would make it easier to implement this plan by allowing the Congress to give away every single piece of property we own, for free, and pretend we have lost nothing of any value."
The divestment of federal land was part of the Republican Party's 2016 platform, and some conservative lawmakers favor handing some federal land to states and local entities. The debate is particularly active in Nevada and Utah, where the federal government manages large areas.
Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) has urged President-elect Donald Trump to roll back President Obama's monument designations — including the new Bears Ears National Monument in his home state (Greenwire, Dec. 28, 2016).
It's unclear whether Trump has the legal authority to undo such protections, but Congress can pass legislation to do so.
Parish Braden, the majority spokesman for the Natural Resources Committee, said federal lands can create a "significant burden" for surrounding communities because they can't be taxed and are sometimes in disrepair. Bishop, he said, sees the rule change as constructive.
"Allowing communities to actually manage and use these lands will generate not only state and local income tax, but also federal income tax revenues, as well as reduce the need for other taxpayer-funded federal support, either through Payments in Lieu of Taxes or other programs like Secure Rural Schools," he said in an email. "Unfortunately, current budget practices do not fully recognize these benefits, making it very difficult for non-controversial land transfers between governmental entities for public use and other reasons to happen."