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Bush’s Midnight Regulations.

November 21, 2008

ProPublica is keeping a running tab on the status of President Bush’s last-minute push for regulations (or deregulation) before January 20th.

Some items of interest:

EPA Won’t Regulate a Contaminant in Drinking Water – Perchlorate is a chemical component of rocket fuel that can contaminate water both naturally and, more frequently, through improper disposal at rocket test sites, military bases and chemical plants. Cleaning it up would cost billions of dollars. But the contaminant has been linked to thyroid problems in young children, pregnant woman and newborns, leaving critics concerned for the developmental health of those most vulnerable to the chemical’s effects.

Revisions to TANF Could Cut Funding to Families in Need – Under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, states are required to reduce their caseload–and get people receiving aid into the workplace–by a certain percent each year. But if states spend more money than required on benefits and services for needy families, called “maintenance of effort” expenditures, they receive credit toward their caseload. This rule would eliminate that credit. HHS says the credit is no longer necessary because, among other reasons, states have significantly reduced their caseloads and operate successful programs without spending more than their MOE requirements. But critics, including members of Congress and governors, fear that eliminating the credit incentive means less money will be available to disadvantaged families.

Law Enforcement Would Get Greater Surveillance Authority – The Department of Justice updated its regulations for surveillance systems that fall under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act in light of technological advances, and expanded its authority to investigate suspected domestic criminal activity in the interest of public safety. The rule is also intended to increase intelligence sharing amongst the various federal agencies. Critics fear the powers are too broad and feel the rule violates the civil liberties of U.S. citizens.

EPA Lets Factory Farms Decide If They Need A Permit to Discharge Animal Waste into Waterways
– The rule, formulated to address practices voided by a Federal Appeals Court ruling, asks companies that run confined animal feeding operations to voluntarily apply for permits to discharge waste into waterways. If the operators don’t think they pollute enough, they are under no obligation to get permits.

Labor Rule Limits Employee Access to Medical and Family Leave Time – Partly in response to a Supreme Court ruling, the DOL has proposed several revisions to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 that could make it more difficult for employees to use paid vacation or personal days when they take leave for medical or family emergencies. It also specifies that those who suffer from a chronic condition must “recertify” every six months, as opposed to a vague “periodically.” Another revision, which some are referring to as a win for workers, would no longer count “light duty” as leave time. Another provides greater leeway for families of active service men and women.

Rules on Dumping of Mine Debris Eased – This rule could make it easier for mining companies to dump debris from mountaintop removal into waterways.

EPA Narrows the Definition of Solid Waste – Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule that alters the definition of solid waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. It effectively exempts about 1.5 million tons of hazardous waste that is recycled from a regulation that required such material to meet strict labeling, transportation and disposal rules.

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