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Jessica Catto Headshot

W. To US: "Drop Dead to You All, and to All a Good Night"

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The spirit of Scrooge is alive and well. In a midnight raid on the nation's health, the Lame W. Duck administration, sneaks out regulations aimed at turning us back into a land of Dickensian smog and tattered children.

See if you can live with:

• EPA would not regulate a contaminant in drinking water (Kool-Aid from our government to us)
• Mining permits near Grand Canyon and other national parks (blasts from the past)
• Gut the Endangered Species Act (the hell with biodiversity or consideration for creation's creatures. Shoot 'em.)
• Power plants could be exempted from installing pollution controls, allowing an added 70 million tons to be released into our air (what's a little cough among friends and who needs to see anyway?)
• EPA narrows the definition of solid waste (now there is a regulation to savor)
• Less reporting on animal pollution proposed
• Rules for dumping mine debris erased
• EPA lowers air quality standards for lead
• Fisheries rule calls for less public input (the czars had a way with public input, too.)
• Loaded guns possible in National Parks( not if the Park rangers have anything to say about it)
• Public lands may be leased for the development of oil shale (public, not to be confused with proprietary)
• Interior Department rules could limit public environmental comments( so much for the First Amendment)
• EPA lets factory farms decide if they need a permit to discharge animal waste into waterways (or large concentrations of dung dumped into our rivers and streams. Even the Neiman Marcus catalogue cannot top that one for sheer Christmas gift inventiveness.)

These are just a few of the renegade regulation rewrites going on. They are aimed at our collective throats. Every outgoing administration writes a last minute Santa list, but for sheer nastiness and mean spiritedness, this wish list takes the prize. The damage to our rivers, oceans, open spaces, and blue skies will be devastating; the menace to our health will be palpable. It is hard to imagine the state of mind in our officials that produces this kind of malice.

Despite the objection of Governor Ritter and the Colorado congressional delegation, one of the rules published in the Federal Register greatly eases environmental constraints on oil shale carnage in the West. Colorado voted blue in November. So, "Stick it to the bums" is the message from a really sore loser to a state coping with its energy demands in forward looking new ways.

There are remedies. One, of course, is the will of the new administration to override this treachery and destructiveness. The other is the Congressional Review Act. Items published in the Federal Register before Nov 21st take effect 60 days from that date.
House and Senate leadership has already stipulated that they will use the Review Act in a similar way that a Bush administration action used it to undo a Clinton regulation in 2001. Reversal probably cannot take place without scrupulous effort, but we should all encourage the new administration and Congress to do everything they can to defeat these ruinous regulations.

Why can't we effect an efficient system for overturning radical last minute impositions on our country? Something to ponder and propose in an enlightened era. On one level, the President-elect seems to be taking charge because the old president has checked out. That is the good news. Obama has set the right tone of cooperation without undue eagerness; his quiet authority has been reassuring.

The bad news is that the old one has not checked out enough to keep from further decimating America the beautiful and bountiful and our traditions. To write midnight regulations that sabotage human health is to see Charles Dickens scribing away by candlelight, as one of his most rapacious and vile villains rises from the candle flame and defiles humanity and its landscape.

Deck the halls, indeed.