Plans to push through new environmental regulations favorable to big business in the waning days of the Bush Administration began as early as last May. That’s when White House Chief of Staff, Joshua Bolton, urged agency heads to finalize energy and environmental regulations before November 1st.
However, it turns out there is an answer to sneaky tricks like this. The White House planners forgot one small detail, a little known law called the Congressional Review Act of 1996 (CRA).
This law states that any regulation finalized within 60 days of congressional adjournment - Oct. 3, in this case - is considered be legally finalized on Jan.15. The new Congress has sixty days to review it and can reverse it with a joint resolution, according to Politico, a national online magazine.
Just think what this means. Any regulation finalized in the last half-year of the Bush administration can be wiped out with a simple party-line vote in the Democrat-controlled Congress. I’m amazed that the Republicans didn’t remember this law, as they originally introduced it.
The CRA was used in 2001 to overturn a Clinton administration rule that set new requirements for ergonomic spaces. The Bush administration apparently did forget it as they make their last attempts to pander to the big corporations that put Bush in office.
A senior aide on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), acknowledged that CRA is an option that the committee is exploring.
The committee has two targets. One is a rule to allow federal agencies to determine whether their policies threaten endangered species, without requiring the approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The other is a regulation opening land in the West to oil shale development and mountaintop removal. A White House spokesman, Carlton Carroll, recently told the press, “We are not rushing regulations through at the last minute. We are simply continuing our responsibility of governing until the end of the president’s term.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that most Americans consider this administration’s energy and environment policies toxic, and this attempt to sneak through some final putrid policies is typical of the administration’s entire eight years.
Even though the CRA can’t be filibustered, legislative lifting is generally more difficult than executive action. “There’s a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we’ll see the president do that,” said John Podesta, a member of Obama’s transition team, to Fox News Sunday.
Jerry Brito, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and an expert on “midnight (or last minute) regulations,” told the press that he would advise Obama to package all of the regulations into one bundle that could be voted up or down.
Brito reasoned that the new president could “limit special pleading” by lumping the pet projects together. There’s no doubt the environmental lobby would be happy with this move. Sierra Club’s lobbyist, Dave Hamilton, told “Politico” in a recent interview, that his organization supports any attempt to derail the Bush rules.
Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMB Watch, a liberal regulatory watchdog group, said “If these rules are overturned, the benefits for the environment are potentially significant.”
“If Obama is able to overturn a sizeable number of Bush’s midnight regulations, he would be the first president in recent memory to succeed at such an effort,” Brito said.
Clinton managed to repeal 9 percent of President George H.W. Bush’s regulations and amend 48 percent of them. The rest remained in place. President George W. Bush managed to repeal only 3 percent of Clinton’s regulations and amend 15 percent, according to Brito.
Karen Harbert, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, told the press, “Congress has an historic opportunity to adopt a bipartisan practical energy policy that would strengthen the security of the United States and its citizens.”
As It Stands, anything that overturns any Bush policy or regulation gives me hope for this country’s future.