Wolves Rest Easy

Obama blocks Bush's wolf and air quality midnight regulations, but West remains open to oil-shale drilling

Upon taking office, President Obama didn’t any waste time swiveling in his new Oval-Office chair: Instead, he got down to business and sent out a memo blocking some of Bush’s controversial last-minute environmental decisions.

The memo stops all federal regulations that haven’t been published in the federal register, including the proposed removal of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species list in the Rocky Mountains and in the Midwest. The memo also halts two controversial Bush-era air quality rules: One which exempts oil refineries from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and one that gives industrial polluters more wiggle room to, well, pollute.

“This is a very positive move for the Obama administration. It is a stay of execution for the wolves. We feel confident that when Obama’s administration views this decision thy will conclude as we have that its not based on science and its not based on law and ought to be withdrawn,” said Andrew Wetzler, director of the endangered species programs at National Resources Defense Council. “(Wolves) haven’t reached a point of recovery yet and to yank the rug out from under them now would be devastating not only to the wolves but to the whole ecosystem.”

For the several Bush midnight regulations that already were published in the national register, removing them could prove much more difficult for the Obama administration. Those regulations include a change in the Endangered Species Act that removes scientific review, and proposed BLM auctions of leases to drill near Arches and Canyonlands national parks in Utah.

Obama has a few options to eventually block late Bush decisions that did make the national register, but all of them could take months or even years to accomplish. Still, environmental advocates have largely praised Obama's executive muscle-flexing.

"The number of examples where they succeeded" in that effort, said John Walke, clean-air director for the National Resources Defense Council, "far exceeds the examples where they failed."

For more on the wolves’ rocky journey, check out “Dogs of War," and for more on BLM auctions near Utah national parks, click here.

--Joanna L. Nasar

Obama blocks some of Bush's last-minute environmental decisions (LA Times)

Image Credit: dobak