Obama administration will act quickly to reverse Bush’s 11th-hour rulings

The Bush administration’s time in office is finally winding down (huzzah!). But unfortunately, the administration doesn’t seem to be slowing down. As we reported last week, Bush is using his executive power to push through a number of 11th-hour regulations (he is “The Decider,” you know), many of which could harm the environment. From allowing oil drilling near national parks to letting power plants pollute more to easing catch limits for commercial fishers, Bush’s last-minute laws could screw over the environment for years to come.

Luckily, Obama is preparing for action: His advisers are preparing a list of policies that could be reversed through executive orders once the new prez takes office. Reversals—if successful—could swiftly halt anti-environmental policies before they do too much harm.

From today’s New York Times:

“There’s a lot that the president can do using executive authority without waiting for Congressional action, and I think we’ll see the president do that,” John D. Podesta, a top transition leader, said Sunday. “He feels like he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set.”


“I think across the board, on stem cell research, on a number of areas,” Mr. Podesta said on “Fox News Sunday,” “you see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things that I think are not in the interest of the country. They want to have oil and gas drilling in some of the most sensitive, fragile lands in Utah that they’re going to try to do right as they are walking out the door. I think that’s a mistake.”

The drilling Podesta refers to involves Bush’s recent decision to expand the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas lease program in Utah. The new ruling would open up thousands of acres of land—much of which borders protected areas like Arches National Park, Dinosaur National Park, and Canyonlands National Park—to oil and gas drilling. Needless to say, the regulation is strongly opposed by environmentalists like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and some park managers, who are worried that drilling could harm wildlife and mar pristine sites like Desolation Canyon.

From another Times story:

The tracts will be sold at auction on Dec. 19th, the last lease sale before President Bush leaves office a month later. The new leases were added after a map of the proposed tracts was given to the National Park Service for comment this fall. The proximity of industrial activity concerns park managers, who worry about the impact on the air, water and wildlife within the park, as well as the potential for noise, said Michael D. Snyder, a regional director of the Park Service who is based in Denver.


The Park Service is usually given one to three months to comment on leases, Mr. Snyder added.


“The is the first time,” he said, “where we have not had sufficient opportunity to comment.”

So not only is the regulation a sucker punch to the environment (and environmentalists), it’s also a rush job—the Dubya specialty.

Whether Obama can successfully and quickly overturn these regulations remains to be seen. Reversing rulings can be difficult, especially given all the regulatory proceedings that need to happen (in other words: lots of jumping through lots of flaming hoops). Here’s hoping that Obama’s transition team has already got it covered, and Jan. 20th will bring a new age for America’s environment.



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