A federal court in Arizona has denied a motion to reverse a U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) decision to withdraw more than a million acres in Northern Arizona from mining activities. Yount v. Salazar, No. 3:11-cv-08171-DGC (D. Ariz. 3/20/13). The action was taken under the Federal Land Policy Management Act, which provides authority for such withdrawals and in section 204(c) gives Congress a veto on withdrawals of more than 5,000 acres. Plaintiffs sued, asserting that the Act is unconstitutional because of the legislative veto provision and that DOI therefore had no authority to make the withdrawal.
The court agreed that section 204(c) is unconstitutional “because it allows Congress to act without adhering to normal constitutional requirements.” The court said that once Congress delegates authority to an administrative agency, Congress can change decisions with which it disagrees only by enacting new legislation. Defendants did not dispute the constitutionality of the legislative veto. The government argued, however, and the court agreed, that the congressional veto provision was not inextricably intertwined with the grant of authority to withdraw federal lands from mining use. Therefore, the court held, the offending veto provision could be severed, and the remainder of the law could stand. The court dismissed the complaint.