The Skywriter

The Unforgettable George W. Bush

13
Jun

The Unforgettable George W. Bush

EPA logo in color

Apparently, George W. Bush is setting his own death mask. It may be that he is concerned about being forgotten all too soon.

On May 9, White House chief of staff Josh Bolten sent a little-noticed memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies and to the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The memo stated that, except in extraordinary circumstances, the administration would not implement any final rule before the end of the Bush presidency if the comment period for that rule did not begin by June 1. No new regulations will be allowed after Nov. 1, except in rare cases.

News of the memo was scarce, but managed to catch the notice of the New York Times.

The kibosh on new rules and regulations was justified by the historical tendency of administrations to increase regulatory activity in their final months:

The government should "resist the historical tendency of administrations to increase regulatory activity in their final months," Mr. Bolten wrote. “We must recognize that the burden imposed by new regulations is cumulative and has a significant effect on all Americans."

But the moratorium bucks a long trend of administrations imposing new rules right up until the final minutes of a presidency in the hopes of leaving a lasting impact on the federal government. Oddly, the White House says the move is designed to prevent last-minute shenanigans by regulatory agencies.

One does not have to ponder deeply as to whether this development will bolster the EPA's obstinacy to act in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling which required the federal agency to treat CO2 as an air pollutant.

According to a recent EPA report, carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants rose 2.9 percent in 2007, the biggest single-year increase since 1998. Emissions of carbon dioxide from the electric power industry have risen 5.9 percent since 2002, and 11.7 percent since 1997. Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Illinois and California are among the states with the largest increases over the past one, five, and ten years.

Since the ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, the agency has not promulgated regulations directly pertinent to the curbing of CO2 emissions, but has become embroiled instead in federal preemption battles, most notably with California over automobile emissions standards.

In fact, the California/EPA battle shed light on the unusual nature of the White House/EPA connection, particularly with regard to the issue of CO2 regulation. After California sued the EPA over the denial of a waiver for regulation of automobile emissions standards, an investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform ensued.

The examination of more than 27,000 pages of records and the sworn testimony of eight EPA officials revealed that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson faced intense pressure from the Bush White House to reject the state's request to EPA for authority to strictly regulate the amount of C02 and other auto emissions. Needless to say, the gun is still smoking.

So, is it likely that we will soon forget you, Mr. Bush? I just don't see how...

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