The Washington Post reports that the Bush administration is rushing to get regulations out the door before its minions return to private life:
The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January.
The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.
Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.
Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.
A coalition of free market groups, including the Competitve Enterprise Institute and the Capital Research Center have joined with progressive-minded environmentalist groups, such as the National Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife, to urge a moratorium on new regulations.
As their open letter to President Bush notes:
The process of midnight rulemaking–something that Presidents of both parties have done with relish–does great damage to the soundness of our regulatory process and, indeed, our democracy. The Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 establishes a regulatory process that includes opportunity for public comment, review, and investigation of regulations. Ultimately, however, enormous power rests with the regulators themselves. The people, through their votes, provide a check on unwise rulemaking. When you issue regulations as a departing administration, you do so without this check and, in some cases, against the will of the people.
On your own administration’s first day in office almost eight years ago, you issued an executive order suspending the implementation of your own predecessors’ last-minute regulations. Much of the rulemaking during your first years in office involved revising, revisiting, and repealing these “midnight” regulations in order to implement your agenda. You should set a good example and avoid leaving your predecessor with the type of headaches you inherited.
Your administration has already issued more regulations than any in history (emphasis added). For eight years, you have been able to implement your agenda on a wide array of issues. We acknowledge that bona fide emergency rulemaking may become necessary at times but, true emergencies-by definition-are few, far between, and pertain to a small subset of issues. In addition, the issuance of regulatory action may be compelled by court-supervised deadlines or other mandates. These regulations are different from the discretionary actions undertaken in the final rush of the administration to advance controversial policies while subverting transparency, rigor, and legitimacy in the rulemaking process.
As a coalition, we do not take a position on any particular rule but, rather, a principled stand on the proper conduct of rulemaking. Our coalition likely contains proponents and opponents of nearly every major regulation you would consider. We have different interests but share a conviction: for the next few months, you should avoid issuing all but the most urgent new regulations.
Whole joint open letter can be found here.