The Bush administration has shifted into overdrive these past two weeks, ramming through dangerous midnight rules and rollbacks faster than Sarah Palin can say "drill, baby, drill!"
Yesterday brought news of a particularly troubling development that will affect one of our nation's most treasured national parks -- the Grand Canyon. Uranium prospectors (yes Virginia, such things do still exist in 2008) have been encircling the Grand Canyon like so many vultures with mining claim after mining claim. (Thanks to the fact that the notorious mining law of 1872 is still in effect almost unchanged since its passage, it's easier to stake a mining claim on our public lands than it is to vote.)
The Sierra Club and its allies filed suit to block any new mining near this national treasure, while the House Natural Resources Committee used a little-known and almost-never used law to put a three year halt on new mining near the Grand Canyon. So problem solved, right?
Wrong. It wouldn't be RAW if the Bush administration simply followed the law, abided by the Constitution's separation of powers, etc. After a whispered announcement and just 15 days of public comment, the Bush administration is now preparing a rule that would -- in typically blunt fashion -- simply remove any reference to Congress and its veto powers from the law.
And while we're on the subject of public lands in the West, the Sierra Club was also forced to file suit this week to block a fire sale of oil and gas leases in Utah. The Bureau of Land [Mis]Management is trying to rush through the sale of numerous parcels of land close to important Native America ruins, national parks, and some of the last remaining truly wild places in Utah.
Perhaps Bush administration's most outrageous last-minute action, which is also sadly came to pass this week, is the repeal of a 1983 law the blocks coal mining activities within 100 feet of streams. Mountaintop removal mining is already decimating Appalachia and this rule now gives coal companies the legal right to dump their mine waste into streams (after having already destroyed some 1600 miles of Appalachian streams over the past 20 years). Bush's favorite sycophant, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, could've blocked the rule citing EPA's own scientific research detailing the numerous harmful effects of the proposal, but instead he said he was satisfied with the coal industry's contentions that all would be fine. The coal industry was of course quite satisfied as well.
It may be Great Depression Part II for the rest of us, but it looks like America's worst polluters are in for one last Christmas blowout thanks to George W. Bush.