The Guardian today reports that George Bush and his administration are using the last days left to them in White House to weaken or reverse regulations regulations intended to protect the American environment
With barely 60 days to go until Bush hands over to Barack Obama, his White House is working methodically to weaken or reverse an array of regulations that protect America’s wilderness from logging or mining operations, and compel factory farms to clean up dangerous waste.
The timing is crucial. Most regulations take effect 60 days after publication, and Bush wants the new rules in place before he leaves the White House on January 20. That will make it more difficult for Obama to undo them.
“There are probably going to be scores of rules that are issued between now and January 20,” said John Walke, a senior attorney at the National Resources Defence Council. “And there are at least a dozen very controversial rules that will weaken public health and environment protection that have no business being adopted and would not be acceptable to the incoming Obama administration, based on stances he has taken as a senator and during the campaign.”
The flurry of new rules – known as midnight regulations – is part of a broader campaign by the Bush administration to leave a lasting imprint on environmental policy. Some of the actions have provoked widespread protests such as the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to auction off 20,000 hectares of oil and gas parcels within sight of Utah’s Delicate Arch natural bridge.
The Bush administration is also accused of engaging in a parallel go-slow on court-ordered actions on the environment. “There are the midnight regulations that they are trying to force out before they leave office, and then there are the other things they are trying not to do before they go. A lot of the climate stuff falls into the category of things they would rather not do,” said a career official at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Other presidents have worked up to the final moments of their presidency to impose their legacy on history. But Bush has been particularly organised in his campaign to roll back years of protections – not only on the environment, but workplace safety and employee rights.
The last-minute rules passed during the “midnight hours” of the George Bush presidency differ from his predecessors because they are basically a project of deregulation – not regulation. Among the most far-reaching:
• Industrial-size pig, cow and chicken farms can disregard the Clean Water Act and air pollution controls.
• The interior department can approve development such as mining or logging without consulting wildlife managers about their impact.
• Restrictions will be eased so power plants can operate near national parks and wilderness areas.
• Pollution controls on new power plants will be downgraded.
• Mountain-top mine operators could dump waste into rivers and streams.
• 2m acres of land in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado opened to development of oil shales, the dirtiest fuel on Earth.
Is there no end of the damage he and his supporters can do to America?