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Obama halts some of Bush's 'midnight rules'

Only hours into his presidency, Barack Obama has ordered a freeze on all the new and pending federal regulations that the Bush administration pushed through in its final days.

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / January 22, 2009

On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama meets with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the Oval Office.

UPI Photo/Pete Souza/White House Press Office

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Only hours into his presidency, Barack Obama has ordered a freeze on all the new and pending federal regulations that the Bush administration pushed through in its final days.

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As Monitor reporter Mark Clayton noted two months ago, many of these "midnight rules" seek to relax, or completely do away with, environmental standards. Among the rules that have been frozen is one that would have made it easier for factories and refineries to expand without applying for new federal pollution permits. Another would have removed federal protection for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes. Another would have opened areas of Oregon to logging. Another would have opened 2 million acres of public land in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah for oil-shale drilling. And another would have helped set in motion the commercialization of meat from genetically modified animals.

It's common for a president to issue a flurry of last-minute rules before stepping down, particularly when a successor is from a different party. And as the Washington Post notes: Starting with Ronald Reagan, it has become a tradition for a president on his first day in office to issue a directive that voids the ones that have not yet gone into effect.

The Jan. 20 memo  from Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff, said: “It is important that President Obama’s appointees and designees have the opportunity to review and approve any new or pending regulations.” Therefore, "no proposed or final regulation should be sent to the Office of Federal Register for publication unless and until it has been reviewed and approved by a department or agency head appointed or designated by the President after noon on January 20, 2009, or in the case of the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense."

Mr. Emanuel also asked department and agency heads to "consider extending for 60 days the effective date of regulations that have been published in the Federal Register but not yet taken effect."

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