(AFP) – Oct 31, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The White House on Friday defended its bid to push through a series of new rules that could relax federal regulations on the economy and the environment in the final days of President George W. Bush's term.
According to government watchdog group OMB Watch, the Bush administration is currently working on dozens of regulations that would loosen rules on emissions of pollutants, mining exploration and commercial fishing, and could have a lasting impact for years to come.
"It is impressive in how many different issues this sort of campaign covers," OMB Watch's Matthew Madia told reporters.
"It's environmental regulations, it's workers' safety, it's reproductive health, it's traffic safety, but the common theme is in a lot a cases the Bush administration is trying to remove restrictions on business and allow them to operate without any kind of government oversight," said Madia, a regulatory expert.
If the Bush administration succeeds, the regulations could prove difficult for the next administration, which will enter the White House on January 20, to undo without lengthy hearings and regulatory proceedings.
"It's intended to make sure that the kind of ideology and priorities that the Bush administration believes in are affecting the country for many years," said Madia.
US media said that up to 90 new regulations may be in the works.
"At least nine of them are considered 'economically significant' because they impose costs or promote societal benefits that exceed 100 million dollars annually," the Washington Post said.
Some of the proposed regulations include new standards on how to prevent and manage oil spills as well as rules on family and medical leave for government employees.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto defended the move, pointing to the end of the Bill Clinton administration in 2001 when he said the Democrat had issued a more than 50 percent increase in regulations.
"We are not doing that in this administration," Fratto said.
"The number of regulations under review has remained fairly constant. There is no great increase in the number of regulations that we are reviewing right now. If you go back six months or 12 months or 18 months the numbers stayed pretty much steady."
Fratto also pointed out that not all the regulations would be viewed positively by business and industry.
"Some of the regulations that are coming through I think are not, maybe not, particularly welcome by members of the business community."
He said Bush's chief of staff Josh Bolten had earlier this year issued a memo to agency and department heads in how to deal with regulations and included a timetable.
"What the chief of staff wanted to avoid was this very charge that we would be trying to, in the dark of night, in the last days of the administration, be rushing regulations into place ahead of the incoming, next administration."
According to reports, one of the rules would remove requirements that some fisheries file environmental impact statements and give review responsibility to regional councils made up mainly of groups with fishing interests.
Another 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," the Post reported.
"According to the EPA's estimate, it would allow millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, worsening global warming."
Madia said some of the rules "have been in development for years in some cases but the reality is that they are going to rush to finalize a lot of them here, at the end."
"It is not unusual, every administration does it and there is obviously a natural tendency to finish what you have started," he added.
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