|Rep. Frank LoBiondo waits for an elevator with fellow N.J. Republican Rep. Chris Smith. (Star-Ledger)|
Jonathan D. Salant reports for NJ.com:
Just four House Republicans voted against repealing U.S. Interior Department regulations requiring federal officials to use the best available science, including addressing the impacts of climate change and moving toward clean energy, in allowing development on public lands.
Three of them are from New Jersey. [Editor: 1 from Pennsylvania]
The 234-186 vote on Tuesday was the latest in a series of House GOP efforts to roll back environmental protections enacted in the final months of President Barack Obama's administration. House Republicans earlier also repealed a regulation that could block individuals with mental illness from buying guns.
Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.), Chris Smith (R-4th Dist.) and Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.) voted no. The only other House Republican to vote now was Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who represent a district across the Delaware River in Bucks County.
"I've tried throughout my public service to be a strong proponent of protection of public lands," Lance said. "We recognize it's important to preserve land."
LoBiondo and Smith also dissented last week when House Republicans voted to repeal regulations on coal companies designed to protect streams and drinking water supplies.
Smith also broke away from the party line and opposed efforts to repeal a rule requiring U.S. oil and gas companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments. Foreign oil companies already are required to reveal such payments.
He also voted no this time.
"Our public lands contribute to economic prosperity, provide recreational and tourism opportunities for sportsmen and travelers, and promote biodiversity," Smith said. He said the regulation, "while not a perfect rule," will help "to protect open spaces and critical habitats."
The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management oversees more than 245 million acres, mostly in 12 western states.
The new regulations announced in December were designed to speed up land-use planning and involve state and local officials. According to BLM, the planning process also will take into account the best available science to address issues such as droughts and wildfires that are increasing in intensity, efforts to develop clean energy sources, and changing animal habitats.
Obama's BLM director, Neil Kornze, said the new rule would increase "collaboration and transparency."
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on the House floor that U.S. officials in Washington shouldn't make decisions about publicly owned land.
"This was devised by people who don't live on our land and who don't know our land and they just try to dictate how to use our land," McCarthy said. "They are undermining the very idea of multiple use of federal lands by making the lands entirely off limits for any type of economic purposes."
President Donald Trump endorsed the repeal. In a memo to Congress, White House officials said the law would give priority to regional and national interests over those of states and localities.
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