Midnight Regulations

There was a good discussion of end-of-term regulations we can expect from the last days of the Bush Administration on the Diane Rehm show. Now the Washington Post has foreshadowed the lasting environmental impact the Bush agencies are planning:

Many of the rules that could be issued over the next few weeks would ease environmental regulations, according to sources familiar with administration deliberations. A rule put forward by the National Marine Fisheries Service and now under final review by the OMB would lift a requirement that environmental impact statements be prepared for certain fisheries-management decisions and would give review authority to regional councils dominated by commercial and recreational fishing interests.

Two other rules nearing completion would ease limits on pollution from power plants, a major energy industry goal for the past eight years that is strenuously opposed by Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups. One rule, being pursued over some opposition within the Environmental Protection Agency, would allow current emissions at a power plant to match the highest levels produced by that plant, overturning a rule that more strictly limits such emission increases. According to the EPA’s estimate, it would allow millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, worsening global warming. A related regulation would ease limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants near national parks. A third rule would allow increased emissions from oil refineries, chemical factories and other industrial plants with complex manufacturing operations.

Though these moves may be reversed under the terms of the Congressional Review Act, it has not proven to be very effective in the past. Senate holds may permit just one senator to keep in place a particularly retrograde rule–and the notice and comment needed to reverse it within the executive branch may take a long time. If the hold practice remains robust, Sens. Inhofe or Coburn of Oklahoma may simply block Congressional reversal of any of these moves.

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