Resources Chairman praises federal ruling against roadless rule

A key congressman has praised a May 10 decision by an Idaho judge to issue a temporary injunction against a Clinton administration rule that effectively would block about one-third of the nation's forests from oil drilling and other development. The administration has not yet commented on the ruling.


By the OGJ Online Staff

WASHINGTON, DC, May 11 -- A key congressman has praised a May 10 decision by an Idaho judge to issue a temporary injunction against a Clinton administration rule that effectively would block about one-third of the nation's forests from oil drilling and other development.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge in Boise, Idaho, made the decision after Bush Administration attorneys filed documents May 4 stating that the roadless rule could cause "irreparable harm."

The court pleadings came the same day that Agriculture Sec. Ann Veneman said the Forest Service would implement the rule on May 12.

However, there were strings attached with the endorsement. Veneman said states would have expanded authority to ignore the ban on a case-by-case basis although details on how local authorities could proceed were not expected from the administration until June.

Meanwhile, a key House Republican who opposed the ban was supportive of the latest legal twists in the case.

"Judge Lodge hit the nail squarely on the head today when he issued a preliminary injunction halting the implementation of this roadless rule," said House Committee on Resources Chairman James Hansen (R-Utah). "Judge Lodge's ruling lets us get in there and pull out diseased and dead wood [from forests]. It lets us save lives and try to head off pending disaster."

Hansen also has previously cited a Department of Energy-funded report from last year that warns an estimated (mean) 11.3 tcf of natural gas and 550 million bbl of oil could potentially underlie inventoried roadless areas. The vast majority of those resources are in the Rocky Mountains, where the rule would shut-in an estimated 9.4 tcf.

A total of six lawsuits have been filed by states, tribes, and various interested parties challenging the rule. With this latest ruling, more legal action is expected. Environmental groups say they will appeal the case to the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals in San Francisco. It is uncertain if the administration will seek its own appeal although industry groups are pressing the White House to let the ruling stand.

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