Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Editorial - Watch for new rules in 2011

A lot of Utahns may have been surprised recently when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a new rule that the Bureau of Land Management can set aside vast tracts of Utah as "wild lands." They may have thought only Congress had the power to do such a thing. But once a law is in place setting up a program or establishing a certain legal designation, the federal agency charged with administering those functions has the power to establish rules or write definitions. The line between these administrative edicts and the role of Congress to establish laws is thin, indeed. As 2011 progresses, that line is liable to make a lot of news. Salazar's "wild lands" is only one example, albeit one that hits close to home in the Beehive State. Environmentalists have been urging Congress to pass a law designating more than 9 million acres of Utah as protected wilderness, locking up valuable minerals, oil and gases that lie beneath. But because that law has little chance of passing, the Interior secretary's edict is the next best thing...more

The editorial concludes by saying:
It would be silly to expect Congress to write all the little rules an agency needs in order to carry out its mandates. Laws establishing new programs typically empower agencies with such rule-making authority. But there is little doubt that the executive branch of government uses this authority for political purposes, and the worst part of this is that such things may escape public notice because they don't carry the public profile of a bill being debated in Congress. This year, then, will be one for public vigilance. As the public proved in November's election, its collective voice still can make a difference.
The Westerner will be watching. Will you?

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