Enter your email address to signup for Barrasso's Newsletter
Washington » Western Republicans fear Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is trying to skirt congressional authority by issuing an administrative order on climate change that the GOP members say could hurt businesses and cost taxpayers millions.
Utah Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and Sen. Orrin Hatch joined 13 other Western Republicans who charge in a letter Wednesday that the administration is trying an end-run around Congress on climate change legislation. At issue is Salazar's September "Secretarial Order" that creates a Climate Change Response Council and allows Interior agencies to coordinate efforts to combat the impacts of increased carbon in the atmosphere.
"These regulations will hit the Western United States the hardest," the Republicans say in the letter to the Interior boss. "Westerners will suffer from higher energy and fuel costs or simply be put out of work."
Salazar issued the order without much fanfare last month, though he praised the move as a milestone in responding to energy and climate challenges.
His office defended the action Wednesday, saying that anyone who looks at Salazar's strategy will find that the GOP members' concerns "have no grounding in reality."
"Instead of scare tactics, we need the type of common sense solutions that will help Westerners adapt to the impacts of climate change, including its effects on western water supplies," Interior spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said. "The secretary's strategy will help develop these types of locally driven and scientifically grounded solutions that will help us deal with the reality of climate change."
The GOP members say Salazar's order could hinder established agreements between the states and Interior agencies on oil and gas developments, renewable energy efforts, recreational use and hunting and grazing rights.
"I realize that congressional action on climate change is not moving as fast as the administration may want," said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Western Caucus. "However, businesses in the West are worried about potential court challenges and administrative action. These new rules will allow special interest groups with narrow agendas to block all existing and future activities on federal lands in the name of climate change."
Salazar's Secretarial Order
» The four-page order creates the Climate Change Response Council, made up of Salazar, his top deputies, bureau directors and the solicitor general, to develop and implement a strategy to combat climate change impacts on public lands, which roughly make up a fifth of the nation's land mass.
» The order says each Interior bureau or agency must consider potential climate change impacts when making long-term plans, conducting scientific research or in making decisions about potential uses of land or resources.
» The order also sets up regional climate change response centers, including one in the West, and seeks to launch a network of "Landscape Conservation Cooperatives" between federal, state and local governments and private landowners.