Sprinting to the finish
Since deregulation had such a positive impact on Wall Street, the Bush administration is pushing to weaken every regulation protecting consumers and the environment that it can on its slither out the door.
The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January.The Bush administration is trying to tie the next president's hands and make things as painless as possible for their supporters during the next administration. Of course, that means making things as difficult and dangerous as possible for the rest of us, but when has that ever bothered Bushies?
The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.
Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.
Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.
As many as 90 new regulations are in the works, and at least nine of them are considered "economically significant" because they impose costs or promote societal benefits that exceed $100 million annually. They include new rules governing employees who take family- and medical-related leaves, new standards for preventing or containing oil spills, and a simplified process for settling real estate transactions.
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.
These rules "will force Americans to choke on dirtier air for years to come, unless Congress or the new administration reverses these eleventh-hour abuses," said lawyer John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The stain of the Bush administration on this country will take years, if not decades, of difficult and painful work to remove.