SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told the Utah Legislature on Tuesday that Congress is plowing through a list of executive branch rules made late in the Obama administration that need repeal because they are too costly, too burdensome or fall outside their constitutional authority.
The Congressional Review Act of 1996 had only been used once in 16 years when Congress invoked it earlier this month to kill a controversial stream rule impacting coal mining operations.
"It was an atomic bomb of sorts they were going to drop on the coal industry," Lee said.
The rule issued in late December put restrictions on coal mines operating near waterways and required monitoring by the mines to determine impacts.
Other Obama-era rules now in the crosshairs for extermination are the Bureau of Land Management's methane emissions regulations and a new approach to crafting land use management plans called Planning 2.0.
Lee said there were a host of rushed midnight regulations that inappropriately empowered the executive branch to essentially craft law, which is in the domain of Congress.
"When we allow (rules) to be made by just a few people, by the executive branch acting alone … that causes some problems," he said. "This is about returning power back to the people … where it belongs."
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, questioned Lee about the ramifications that may come from a recently released federal investigation concerning the actions of BLM agent Dan Love.
The Department of the Interior's independent inspector general's office released a damning report on Love that was spurred by anonymous complaints. The investigation concluded Love had committed ethics violations and used his position to gain special treatment at the 2015 Burning Man event in Nevada. The report concluded, too, that he had subsequently intimidated witnesses in the case by threatening to retaliate.
Lee said such actions are what come from an oversized federal agency using its own law enforcement arm.
"We give too much power to too few people," he said, noting that county sheriffs' offices — not federal agents — should be the top law enforcement authority in their own jurisdiction.
Details of the inspector general's investigation into Love's activities prompted Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to request additional information into the alleged destruction on federal records, witness tampering and obstruction of a congressional investigation.