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Will CRAs toss out good with bad?

Posted: Tuesday, Feb 14th, 2017

SUBLETTE COUNTY – The Wyoming Delegation is making quick use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to try and repeal disliked federal final rules – taking aim at what they call “power grabs” and “regulatory overreaches.”

The CRA is a streamlined process that only needs simple majority votes in both houses to overturn and prohibit further rulemaking on the specific issue regulated by a federal agency in a final rule. Once both houses pass joint resolutions of disapproval, it goes to the White House for approval or veto.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, with Sen. Mike Enzi, introduced Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 11 under the CRA as a “resolution of disapproval” for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) venting and flaring/ methane emissions rule.

Rep. Rob Bishop introduced a similar House joint resolution of disapproval, HJR 36, the same day. Since, HJR 36 passed the house, 221-191, after one hour of debate and went to the Senate on Feb. 3. Barrasso’s SJR 11 is with the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

On Feb. 7, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s HJR 44 disapproving the BLM’s Planning 2.0 final rule resulted in a vote, 234-186, to repeal it. Barrasso and Enzi are co-sponsoring a Senate version.

The Senate reportedly has a backlog of resolutions as it undertakes confirmation hearings for Cabinet nominees, many who generate their own controversy.

All or nothing?

Wyoming’s two U.S. senators and one representative say they are reacting to “regulatory overreaches” by the past Obama Administration, an opinion shared by many citizens, but many others are concerned the CRAs will bring “all or nothing” results.

The CRA was created in 1996 within the larger Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Act signed by President Bill Clinton. It allows Congress to review new federal regulations issued by agencies and jointly overturn them within 60 days.

Since then, they are mainly used to send a message. Only once, in 2001, has such a joint resolution succeeded.

“It’s craziness,” said Elaine Crumpley, a retired Pinedale teacher and longtime member of Citizens United for Responsible Energy Development (CURED). “Some of this is cutting off the nose to spite the face. … The bottom line is, you shouldn’t use CRAs to undo laws put in place to protect the land, people, animals, clean water and clean air.”

Dan Smitherman, of The Wilderness Society, agreed.

“Probably the biggest issue is that using the CRA to kill these is like using an axe when you need a scalpel,” he said. “Under the CRA, if a rule is cancelled, you essentially have lost the opportunity to use or modify that rule. Without congressional action, the agency is essentially forbidden from ever revisiting the issue.”

If the Trump Administration wants to modify these rules, he added, “They could have simply directed the agency to review them, not kill them forever. Note that the CRA is so draconian that previous to this administration had only been used once before.”

For the complete article see the 02-14-2017 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-14-2017 paper.

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