Report Shows Bush Administration "Hostile" to Regulation
The Bush administration showed a "pre-determined hostility" toward regulation in reviewing, and in some cases weakening, environmental protections adopted under President Clinton, according to a new report, entitled "Rewriting the Rules," released by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee.
On President Bush’s very first day in office, his chief of staff, Andrew Card, issued a memo directing that agencies halt all regulatory activity pending a review of Clinton-era rules by Bush political appointees. After sifting through thousands of documents turned over by the administration, committee staff found that this review was "characterized by a troubling lack of respect for long-established regulatory procedures, an attempt to give short shrift to public input when possible, and to discount the science or record that supported the rules under review.”
The report gives particular attention to three rules "subjected to the administration's second-guessing":
- A rule protecting roadless areas in national forests. The administration chose not to defend this rule against a court challenge; instead, documents show it was content “to let (the) Judge take (the) rule down,” according to the report. This conveniently allowed the administration to avoid responsibility for revoking it.
- A standard for arsenic in drinking water. The Bush administration appeared poised to weaken this rule, which underwent years of scientific review. Indeed, documents show the Office of Management and Budget pressured EPA to relax the standard. Ultimately, however, the administration decided to uphold the Clinton standard, wasting valuable time and resources in the process. This decision came after a political firestorm surrounding the administration’s review, along with an additional study by the National Academy of Sciences, which again demonstrated the need for the rule.
- A rule restricting hard rock mining on public lands. The administration initially suspended this rule -- a decision “not based on documented substantive analysis,” according to the report -- and ultimately repealed parts of it, permitting unwarranted environmental and health risks.
For more, see the Natural Resources Defense Council's comprehensive report on the Bush administration's rollback of environmental rules, which, like the Lieberman report, is called, Rewriting the Rules.