Sunday, November 2, 2008

The headline: "Wave of Midnight Regulations Expected". The meaning: "Bush administration plans to finish off environment before end of presidential tenure." Via eenews (subs req'd, but campuses and some public libraries should have access). The Bush administration is planning to put through a number of "minor" regulatory changes after the end of the Nov. 1 rule proposal deadline, using yet another exception clause (for which the Bush administration is so well known). Here's a sample:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued proposed regulations to implement new car fuel-efficiency standards in April 2008, and final regulations are expected soon. "The Bush administration has proposed to use unrealistically low predictions of future gasoline prices for these calculations," the report says.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a proposed rule changing its environmental regulations to update its "waste confidence" finding, which determines the safety of spent nuclear fuel. NRC is currently deliberating a final rule to require new nuclear reactor applicants to provide an assessment of how the reactor would respond in the event of a large commercial aircraft impact, the report said.

The Interior Department also has a slew of regulations expected to come out before the end of the year. In April, it proposed a rule that would allow visitors to carry loaded guns into national parks and wildlife refuges unless state laws prevent them from doing so. Another Interior proposal would govern offshore leasing for renewable energy generators, such as wind turbines.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has also been rushing to complete changes to Endangered Species Act regulations that would fundamentally change how agencies consider potential threats to protected species from federal projects.

In an environmental assessment released this week, Interior said the rules would have little impact on the environment. Environmentalists decried the report as a rush job by political appointees that does not assess the full range of possible harm to species or court rulings on previous ESA decisions. The agency gave the minimum of 10 days for public comment on the assessment.

The Office of Surface Mining is expected to issue a final rule that would extend the current rule on mountaintop removal coal mining so that protections apply to all bodies of water, not just streams. But the rule would also exempt some practices or venues such as permanent coal waste disposal facilities and could allow for changing a waterway's flow.

The Bureau of Land Management could complete rules on issuing leases for commercial oil shale development now that Congress has allowed a moratorium to expire that had prevented the agency from finalizing such regulations during fiscal 2008. BLM also is expected to come out with a final rule establishing energy transmission corridors that would criss-cross through 11 states in the West. The agency also proposed a rule this month to eliminate a regulation that allows for emergency withdrawals of public land from energy production and mineral extraction to protect natural resources.

The National Park Service plans to change decades-old regulations within the next two months to open more trails to mountain biking. The agency is working on a draft proposal that it plans to release in time to have a 30-day public comment period and have the new rule in effect by mid-December. The service also plans to have a proposed rule for snowmobile use in Yellowstone this winter ready for public comment by early November and in place by Dec. 15, after a federal judge threw out a previous plan.

A federal judge also ruled last December that the Fish and Wildlife Service must reconsider its refusal to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, and a decision is expected by December.

And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working on rules that would toss out part of a longstanding environmental law in federal fisheries management decisions.

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