Action on Midnight Rules Switches to Agencies

One of the first tasks on the to-do list for new Obama administration agency heads will be dealing with the midnight regulations left by the Bush administration. The White House has likely said all its going to say on the issue (more here), but the majority of Bush's regulations are still unaddressed.

The Environmental Protection Agency, complying with a memo from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, will take another look at a raft of proposed regulations. EPA has withdrawn several regulations awaiting approval at the White House Office of Management and Budget. The withdrawals give new appointees an opportunity to review their content which had been written under President Bush. For example, EPA officials will review a draft of a proposed rule (not yet disclosed to the public) that would require a variety of industries to report to the government greenhouse gas emissions above a certain threshold.

But a number of controversial EPA regulations are already on the books and thus unaffected. These will need a greater degree of attention if they are to be changed or reversed. (A full list of midnight regulations is available in After Midnight, a new report by the Center for American Progress and OMB Watch.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is opening up his agency's playbook to deal with some Bush-era regulations already being implemented. According to BNA News Service (subscription), "He said Interior would review several 'midnight' regulations that were approved in the last few months of the Bush administration, including oil and gas drilling leases in Utah, oil-shale development, the treatment of polar bears under the Endangered Species Act, and the consultation process for federal agencies under the act."

Interior was the most dastardly character in Bush's midnight regulations story. The department basically ignored public comments on a regulation which will weaken the role of scientists in making decisions that could affect endangered species. In setting rules for carrying concealed weapons in national parks, the department made last-minute changes that make the regulation even more extreme without consulting with the public or park safety advocates. Those two, as well as others, were not just bad policy but bad process.

Hopefully as the Obama agenda moves forward it will include a full scale appraisal of the damage the Bush administration levied on the code of federal regulations — midnight regulations as well as those throughout Bush's two terms.

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