Although I've been blogging almost daily about our owl research project, I haven't been updating this blog - though there's lots to report.
As I and a lot of other conservationists predicted some months ago, we've seen a blizzard of so-called midnight regulations from the Bush administration, trying to leave an still-more-permanent (and damaging) stamp on the environment before they leave office. Their attempt to gut the Endangered Species Act, which I wrote about in August, has been joined by moves to open millions of acres of western wilderness to energy production, loosen air-quality standards for national parks, and much more.
Most of these regs, which do not require Congressional approval, were fast-tracked to be on the books more than 60 days before the end of the administration, a move designed specifically to prevent the incoming Obama administration from simply reversing them, as Bush did to many of Bill Clinton's last-minute regulatory changes. Any rule finalized by Nov. 1, the administration believed, would be safe from an easy Obama reversal.
But, as Politico.com reports here, the Bushies made a mistake -- they overlooked the 1996 Congressional Review Act, a little-known rule passed by (oh, the irony) the GOP-controlled Congress angered by Clinton's rule-making.
In a nutshell, the CRA allows any rule passed within 60 days of Congressional adjournment to be reviewed - and overturned - by a joint resolution of the new Congress.
"In other words, any regulation finalized in the last half-year of the Bush administration could be wiped out with a simple party-line vote in the Democrat-controlled Congress," Politico.com writers Erika Lovley and Ryan Grim report.
John Podesta, who is co-directing the Obama transition, has said that the new administration would make reversing Bush's last-minute rules a priority, but even with legislative help, it isn't easy. The Politico.com piece reports that Bush repealed only 3 percent of Clinton's rules, and amended 15 percent. Clinton did a better job on rules imposed by Bush's father -- 9 percent repealed and 48 percent amended.
Now, if we could only make sure Bush doesn't pardon any more poisoners of bald eagles...