Friday, November 14, 2008

Bush rushes through harmful environment laws

Bush rushes through 'harmful' environment laws
New Scientist staff and Reuters
03 November 2008\

As the US presidential candidates sprint toward the finish line, the Bush
administration is also sprinting to enact environmental policy changes before
leaving power.

The rule changes include getting wolves off the Endangered Species List,
allowing power plants to operate near national parks, relaxing regulations for
factory farm waste and making it easier for mountaintop coal-mining operations.
None have found much favour with environmental groups.

Even some free-market organisations have joined conservation groups to urge a
moratorium on last-minute rules proposed by the Interior Department and the
Environmental Protection Agency, among others.

"The Bush administration has had eight years in office and has issued more
regulations than any administration in history," says Eli Lehrer of the
Competitive Enterprise Institute. "At this point, in the current economic
climate, it would be especially harmful to push through ill-considered

The Bush team has urged that regulations be issued no later than Saturday, so
they can be put in effect by the time George W. Bush leaves office on 20 January
Hard to undo

If they are in effect then, it will be hard for the next administration to undo
them, and in any case, this may not be the top priority for a new president,
says Matt Madia of OMB Watch, which monitors the White House Office of
Management and Budget through which these proposed regulations must pass.

"This is typical," Madia says of the administration's welter of eleventh-hour
rules. "It's a natural reaction to knowing that you're almost out of power."

According to Madia, industry is likely to benefit if Bush's rules on the
environment become effective. "Whether it's the electricity industry or the
mining industry or the agriculture industry, this is going to remove government
restrictions on their activity and in turn they're going to be allowed to
pollute more and that ends up harming the public."

What is unusual is the speedy trip some of these environmental measures are
taking through the process.

For example, one Interior Department rule that would erode protections for
endangered species in favour of mining interests drew more than 300,000 comments
from the public, which officials said they planned to review in a week, a pace
that Madia calls "pretty ludicrous."

Rules only go into effect 30 to 60 days after they are finalised, and if they
are not in effect when the next president takes office, that chief executive can
decline to put them into practice - as Bush did with many rules finalised at the
end of the Clinton administration.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto denied the Bush team was cramming these
regulations through in a hasty push.

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