How much environmental damage can Bush do in last 100 days?

US House of Representatives committee warns Bush administration could use last few months in office for huge roll back of green legislation

As the US prepares to elect a new president tomorrow, fears are mounting that there could be a sting in the tail of the Bush administration after a House of Representatives Select Committee warned the lame duck president could cause as much damage to the environment in the last 100 days of office as he did in the first 100.

During those first 100 days back in 2000, the Bush government refused to back legislation that would reduce arsenic levels in drinking water, opened wilderness areas to new roads and refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol after initially promising to cut carbon emissions.

But a report from the House Select Committee on energy and independence released this weekend, voiced fears that the White House could be gearing up for a repeat of that period of environmental deregulation.

"While the first 100 days of the Bush administration initiated perhaps the worst period of environmental deregulation in American history, the last 100 days of a Bush presidency could be even worse," the report said.

Concerns highlighted by the committee include plans by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalise a rule before the end of the administration that would exempt power plants from having to install new pollution control technology when they are modernised.

It also claims that the Department of the Interior (DOI) has telegraphed its intention to "gut" the Endangered Species Act by rushing through 300,000 comments on proposed changes to current rules in 32 hours, then providing a mere 10-day public comment period on the reforms.

A letter sent by committee chairman Edward Markey to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) last week noted that "the proposed rule changes weaken the ESA by undermining the Section Seven consultation requirements in the Act and excluding global warming emissions as a consideration".

A proposed strategy to keep fuel economy standards low by basing them on unrealistically low predictions for future gasoline prices was further criticised by the report. While fears were also raised that an upcoming rule requiring concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to obtain permits under the Clean Water Act will allow the agricultural sector to self-regulate, potentially limiting the government's ability to address water quality issues.

The process has already got underway, according to the report, which highlighted White House's recent intervention to relax proposed rules governing levels of lead in the atmosphere.

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