Tricks For Us; Treats For Polluters

With all the drama, worry, excitement, and attention surrounding the upcoming Presidential election, it’s easy to forget that George W. Bush is still the current occupant and he still has (some) power. Check out this disturbing information from R. Jeffrey Smith’s piece in today’s Washington Post:

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 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.

“They want these rules to continue to have an impact long after they leave office,” said Matthew Madia, a regulatory expert at OMB Watch, a nonprofit group critical of what it calls the Bush administration’s penchant for deregulating in areas where industry wants more freedom. He called the coming deluge “a last-minute assault on the public . . . happening on multiple fronts.”

Oh, so when they want to push this stuff through (or the Patriot Act, or the war, or the bailout) it’s all about urgency to act with no time for honest debate. But if the next president wants to undo any of it, of course it MUST include “lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.”

Gee, none of this sounds good. And as I read on, it didn’t get much better:

The burst of activity has made this a busy period for lobbyists who fear that industry views will hold less sway after the elections. The doors at the New Executive Office Building have been whirling with corporate officials and advisers pleading for relief or, in many cases, for hastened decision making.

According to the Office of Management and Budget’s regulatory calendar, National Mining Association officials came in two weeks ago making the case for easing rules meant to keep coal slurry waste out of Appalachian streams.

Many of the rules that could be issued over the next few weeks would ease environmental regulations, according to sources familiar with administration deliberations. Lee Crockett of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Environment Group said the administration has received 194,000 public comments on the rules and protests from 80 members of Congress as well as 160 conservation groups. “This is fatally flawed” as well as “wildly unpopular,” Crockett said.

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 Bush Administration ladies and gentlemen!!!

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