Saturday, December 06, 2008

Christmas Presents

The outgoing administration is working overtime to finalize ideologically-driven regulatory changes. To wit:

  • Appalachian drinking water will come with extra heavy metals now that coal companies need no longer meet clean-water requirements when they fill valleys with surface mining detritus. (via)
    Under the changes in the final rule, EPA would consider mining valley fills incompliance [sic] with water quality standards if mining operators obtained "dredge-and-fill" permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But, the standard for obtaining such a permit allows a greater level of damage than would be permitted under OSM's previous version of the buffer zone rule....

    Coal operators already can obtain variances to mine within the 100-foot buffer. To do so, though, companies must show that their operations will not cause water quality violations or "adversely affect the water quantity and quality, or other environmental resources of the stream."

    For years, the OSM and various state mining agencies have interpreted the buffer zone rule to not apply to valley-fill waste piles that bury streams.

    In 1999, then-U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II concluded that the rule did apply to valley fills. That decision was overturned on appeal, but federal regulators and the coal industry still moved to rewrite the rule.
  • If you have a loaded firearm, you can take it to your favorite national park!
    As expected, the Interior Department decided to scrap its longtime ban on loaded weapons. Under the new regulation, individuals will be allowed to carry loaded, concealed weapons in parks or wildlife refuges if they have state permits to carry concealed weapons in the state in which the national park or refuge is located.

    Under current regulations, firearms in the national parks must be unloaded and inoperable. That means they must have trigger locks or be stored in a car trunk or in a special case....

    National parks range from Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon to the family home of the wife of Ulysses S. Grant in eastern Missouri and New York's Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

    Bill Wade, the president of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, said the new regulation would allow concealed, loaded firearms at 388 of 391 park sites. Only the three national parks in Wisconsin and Illinois, which don't issue concealed carry permits, are excluded, he said.
  • There is still the issue of the revisions to the Endangered Species Act, which were recently finalized.
    The latest version of the rule goes further than the language Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne issued in August by explicitly excluding climate change from the factors that would trigger an interagency consultation. The move is significant because the administration has listed polar bears as a threatened species under the act on the grounds that their sea-ice habitat is shrinking, but Kempthorne has repeatedly argued that this move should not trigger a federal curb on greenhouse gas emissions linked to the melting of sea ice.

    The rule states: "Federal agencies are not required to consult on an action when . . . the effects of such action are manifested only through global processes and (i) cannot be reliably predicted or measured at the local scale, or (ii) would result at most in an extremely small, insignificant local impact, or (iii) are such that the potential risk of harm to species or habitat are remote."
Meanwhile, Bush also pardoned someone convicted of poisoning bald eagles. He has been very busy, and he still has a month and a half to work mischief.