Bush's most controversial regulations: still standing


President Obama put a freeze on new regulation yesterday — nothing will be approved until his Cabinet secretaries have a chance to review it.

The announcement came after months of frantic “midnight regulation” by federal agencies. And it’s obviously intended to block new rules left unfinished by the Bush administration.

But will it affect some of the most controversial Bush-era regulations? I’ve been digging through old copies of the Federal Register — a fun way to spend the afternoon, I assure you — and the answer is a resounding “no.” Some of the most controversial rules are already in effect.

Wondering which ones? The (incomplete) list is after the jump.

  • The “conscience rule,” which allows workers at health care facilities — doctors, nurses, pharmacists — to refuse to help provide services they find morally objectionable. This one was really a “midnight” regulation: It took effect on Jan. 18, just 48 hours before Bush left office.
  • The “trucker rule,” which allows truckers to drive 11 consecutive hours (up from 10) and 60 hours per week. Public safety groups say that’s too many.
  • The commercial oil shale program. The Bureau of Land Management opened two million acres of public land in Western states for oil shale development. It’s a controversial process: Nobody’s sure if large-scale oil shale production is commercially viable, and extracting oil from shale creates a lot of pollution. This one took effect on Jan. 17.
  • An Interior Department rule that weakens the Endangered Species Act. Agencies no longer have to consult scientists to find out if big construction projects — like highways or dams — threaten endangered species.

The Obama administration will probably undo some of these controversial regulations. But that will require new regulations — so it’ll be a few months.


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