- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 3, 2001

Even as Bill and Hillary were unscrewing the White House light bulbs and packing away the toilet paper, we now know that the president released a swarm of last-minute pardons.
Fewer know because that was the whole idea that he also let loose a plague of so-called "midnight regulations," some promulgated literally on his last day in office
Like last-minute pardons, these are not illegal even when granted to thugs and billionaire tax fugitives. But they are aimed at avoiding public scrutiny.
Unlike pardons, these regulations are reversible by executive order. But repeatedly, the Bush administration has declared, "Lets leave bad enough alone."
One of the new rules would essentially lock up a third of our national forests by preventing new road building in them. These arent spotted owl homes, but trees grown for the purpose of harvesting and replanting.
The Bush administration originally suspended the order. It then got powerful support from an April federal court decision that the regulation was "an obvious violation" of the federal law spelling out requirements for public participation in federal rule-making.
Nonetheless, Mr. Bushs people did an about-face, saying they supported Mr. Clintons foresting freeze but that the judicial ruling compelled them to give local officials some leeway in implementation whatever that means.
"No go," replied the court. It blocked the Clinton-Bush regulation May 10, declaring it "poses serious risks of irreparable harm." In other words, the judge refused to let George Bush be Bill Clinton.
Another midnight regulation would have lowered allowable arsenic levels in drinking water from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb. Arsenic in water, at least at high enough levels, is considered a probable cause of bladder cancer.
According to the American Water Works Association Research Foundation, the new regulation would cost the nation $605 million annually. For this, the EPA estimates wed prevent all of three bladder cancer deaths.
Maybe you think your life is worth $200 million, but the Transportation Department, in assessing new safety requirements, values a life at $2.5 million.
EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman could have killed the rule, burying it with a stake through the heart.
Instead, she says shell base a new standard on an upcoming report from a politically activist National Research Council (NRC) panel. Problem is, its the NRC that urged the Clinton standard.
Yet another health-related midnight rule with no real promise of preserving health is a new reporting requirement for lead under the EPAs Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).
Its just another indicator that the Environmental Protection Agencys obsession with lead removal practically amounts to trying to punch a square out of the periodical table of elements, and by definition, it slams only small businesses.
It drastically lowers the threshold of who must report lead emissions from those putting out 25,000 or 10,000 pounds per year (depending on the use of the metal), all the way down to those emitting a mere 100 pounds annually.
"We cannot recall in more than three decades of reviewing environmental regulations a more egregious example of a total disregard of the science," said an April 9 Small Business Administration memo to the EPA.
By the EPAs count, more than 35,000 new facilities will creak and groan under new paperwork burdens. This is on top of TRI reporting costs that already increased from $65 million in 1988 to $498 million last year in real dollars.
All of this was the doing of Clintons EPA; the Bush EPA merely gave it a wink and a nudge. Its not hard to understand the administrations temptation to play dead. Even the hint of a regulatory rollback has activists and the media howling that Mr. Bush is the reincarnation of Heinrich Himmler.
Consider the reaction to the Energy Departments April announcement that instead of demanding that makers of home central air conditioners and heat pumps increase efficiency by 30 percent, as Mr. Clinton had ordered, it would be just 20 percent.
"This is a stupid action that compromises the nations energy needs and increases the likelihood of blackouts," bellowed David Goldstein, energy program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
You would never know that the NRDC opposes all nuclear power and all new oil drilling in Alaska, that it supports ripping down hydroelectric dams, and that it demands global warming rules that would make coal about as useful as Viagra to a eunuch.
You would also never know that the more efficient units are more expensive, and that its rather difficult for sick and old people to cool their homes with machines they cant afford.
Anyway, isnt it enough that Mr. Bush caved in completely on the washing-machine efficiency regulation, which will boost the price of each unit about 60 percent? Or that he simply waved the white flag on costly new diesel fuel regulations and wetlands construction rules?
"The Bush administration has hit the ground running in its efforts to preserve and protect Americas environment," an EPA press release recently claimed.
No it didnt. It was just dodging the Bill Clinton Midnight Express.

Michael Fumento is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute where he is completing a book on advances in biotechnology.


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