The great rush
Bush hurries to give industry a parting gift: licence to pollute
By the time Barack Obama takes charge as US president on January 20, his predecessor George W Bush would have weakened a number of environmental rules. Bush is known for his anti-environment policies, and his team is working overtime to unbound industry of environmental regulations. According to The Washington Post, 90 new rules are in play.
Some of the finalized and proposed changes involve getting animals off the Endangered Species List, loosening regulations for factory farm waste, speeding up oil shale development across eight hundred thousand rocky hectares in the west and making mountaintop coal-mining easier.
Rules come into effect 30 to 60 days after being finalized. If they have not come into effect when Obama takes up office, he can reject them. But if they come into effect it will be very difficult for him to reverse them; it will require the intervention of the Senate, a cumbersome process.
These changes are part of a long thought-out strategy by the Bush administration. In May 2008, the White House chief of staff issued a memo asking regulatory agencies to put together proposed changes in rules by June 1. Several changes in rules were finalized in November and December (see box: To-undo list).
Known as midnight regulations, the rules are being hurried without the usual checks and balances. Even citizens are cut out of the process. Take, for example, the interior department rule that takes away the protections for endangered species in favour of mining interests. It drew more than 300,000 comments from the public, which officials reviewed in about a week and finalized the rule on December 11. Usually, it takes months to review public comments.