Meanwhile…. Bush is still the president.
And he can still do a lot of things.
By law, new regulations and executive orders don't take effect until 60 days after they are issued, which means if Bush is going to do stuff, he has until November 20 to get them done. (The Clinton Administration messed up on this — they issued a lot of executive orders and regulations after the deadline; the Bush team came in and was able to withdraw hundreds of them and/or modify them with a Republican slant).
The Washington Post recently did a story on the regulations that the Bush folks are trying to squeeze through at the last minute. As you might guess, these regulations really screw with the environment and consumers:
The new rules would…lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms…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.
….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.
….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.
It looks like they're cutting corners to get it done, too.
Rushing to ease endangered species rules before President Bush leaves office, Interior Department officials are attempting to review 200,000 comments from the public in just 32 hours, according to an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has called a team of 15 people to Washington this week to pore through letters and online comments about a proposal to exclude greenhouse gases and the advice of federal biologists from decisions about whether dams, power plants and other federal projects could harm species. That would be the biggest change in endangered species rules since 1986.
In an e-mail last week to Fish and Wildlife managers across the country, Bryan Arroyo, the head of the agency's endangered species program, said the team would work eight hours a day starting Tuesday to the close of business on Friday to sort through the comments. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne's office, according to the e-mail, will be responsible for analyzing and responding to them.
The public comment period ended last week, which initiated the review.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., whose own letter opposing the changes is among the thousands that will be processed, called the 32-hour deadline a "last-ditch attempt to undermine the long-standing integrity of the Endangered Species program."
At that rate, according to a committee aide's calculation, 6,250 comments would have to be reviewed every hour. That means that each member of the team would be reviewing at least seven comments each minute.
It usually takes months to review public comments on a proposed rule, and by law the government must respond before a rule becomes final.
"It would seem very difficult for them in four days to respond to so many thoughtful comments in an effective way," said Eric Biber, an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. Along with other law professors across the country, Biber sent in 70 pages of comment.
And sure enough, after the "thorough" review in four days, the Bush Administration announced new regulations the following Monday.
There will be many more of these quick and dirty regulations in the weeks to come.