Friday, September 10, 2010

U.S. not 'sovereign' over federal lands, Utah GOP Senate candidate says

An attorney seeking to replace Utah Sen. Robert Bennett (R) has pledged to push legislation to curb the Interior secretary's authority to cancel oil and gas leases and argued that the United States may only exercise sovereignty over federal lands with the consent of the state's Legislature. Republican Mike Lee, a week after narrowly defeating opponent Tim Bridgewater in the state's GOP primary, said he believes the Constitution grants Utah authority to use eminent domain to seize federal lands within its boundaries, a position that worries environmental groups working to protect national monuments and other sensitive lands in the state. Lee, a legal scholar and former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito who served briefly as legal counsel under former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R), said he would promote public land management policies in Congress that place a greater emphasis on extracting the vast amounts of mineral resources lying underneath his state. The 39-year-old lawyer and former assistant U.S. attorney is considered an early favorite to defeat Democrat Sam Granato in the November general election. Utah has not elected a Democratic senator since 1970. "The so-called enclave clause of the Constitution gives Congress exclusive legislative jurisdiction over federal lands within state boundaries that have been acquired by Congress with the consent of the state," said Lee. "Unless such consent has been granted by a host state's Legislature, the federal government owns those lands not as a sole sovereign lawmaker but as more of a proprietor."...more

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