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Obama criticized after monument designation

The last weeks of the Obama presidency feature stroke-of-pen moves to protect the environment.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
Designation of national monument sites in the American desert draws fire from vocal critic of Obama administration. File Photo by kenkistler/Shutterstock
Designation of national monument sites in the American desert draws fire from vocal critic of Obama administration. File Photo by kenkistler/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- A stark supporter of the oil and gas industry said President Obama was again sidelining state authority with the designation of two new national monument sites.

The president designated two new national monuments in the deserts of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada to the praise of those in the environmental advocacy community.

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"Protected open spaces like these are vital for healthy air, water, and climate, but they also provide powerful opportunities for healing -- something vitally important as people come together during this tense moment in history," Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement.

Obama has embraced a greener agenda while in office, sidelining the Keystone XL oil pipeline and moving in favor of the Paris climate agreement. In his remaining days in office, he used the powers of the office to ban offshore oil and gas drilling in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, a Republican, said the move was an unprecedented shot across his state's bow, noting state economic vulnerabilities weren't resonating 3,700 miles away in the nation's capitol.

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U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said the national designations were another example of overreach by a lame-duck Obama administration trying to sideline state voices by creating a tribal council to oversee some monument sites.

"Only Congress can legally do so," he said. "This administration over-promised, failed to deliver, and is now trying to hide its ineptitude."

Bishop said Obama's use of the Antiquities Act was abusive. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has upheld presidential authority to declare national monuments under the act, even when such declarations impacted mineral leases.

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Bishop has moved in favor of the energy industry in the past. When in 2015 the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said it was developing new standards to close what it viewed as gaps in the measures enacted in the wake of the BP oil spill in 2010, Bishop said the measure would act as a de facto moratorium on offshore oil development.

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