Animals and plants in danger of extinction could lose the protection of government experts who make sure that infrastructure projects don’t pose a threat, under regulations outgoing US president George W Bush is set to put in place before he leaves office.
Geogre Bush: opponents claim he will introduce a number of ‘midnight regulations’ before leaving office Photo: AP
The rules must be published on Friday to take effect before President-Elect Barack Obama is sworn in Jan 20.
The proposed change would eliminate the input of federal wildlife scientists in some endangered species cases, allowing the federal agency in charge of building, authorising or funding a project to determine for itself if it is likely to harm endangered wildlife and plants.
Current regulations require independent wildlife biologists to sign off on these decisions before a project can go forward, at times modifying the design to better protect species.
It is among several rule changes that environmentalists say Mr Bush has or will introduce in what are known as “midnight regulations”.
Though he would not be the first president to follow the practice, environmental campaigners fear he will sneak through as many changes as possible on energy, climate change and the environment, having been unable to pass full legislation through the Democrat-controlled Congress.
He has already opened up 800,000 hectares of land in Rocky Mountain states for the development of oil shale, and is reportedly considering allowing industrial-size pig, cow and chicken farms to disregard the Clean Water Act and air pollution controls.
Rules that go into effect before Mr Obama takes office will be difficult to overturn since it would require the new administration to restart the rule-making process.
Democratic Congressmen are however already plotting to reverse any new Bush regulations through the use of an obscure act allows review of new federal regulations, which has been used once in the last 12 years.
By Alex Spillius in Washington
Last Updated: 12:36PM GMT 20 Nov 2008
Source: The Telegraph