Little-Noticed Law Lurks over Environmental Protections

By Nierenberg, Danielle | World Watch, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Little-Noticed Law Lurks over Environmental Protections


Nierenberg, Danielle, World Watch


* Little-noticed law lurks over environmental protections: A range of U.S. regulations protecting the environment and public health, including the Roadless Area Conservation Rule protecting federal forests, are in danger of being overturned by means of a little-known law called the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress are threatening to wield the CRA to undo much of former president Bill Clinton's final work on this front.

Hoping to solidify his legacy as a defender of the environment, heath and labor, President Clinton signed stricter pollution rules for diesel fuel, workplace protection standards and--perhaps the most far-reaching environmental regulation of his two-term presidency--a ban on commercial logging and road-building on more than 58 million acres of federal forest land, including areas of Alaska's Tongass National Forest. Scheduled to take effect March 13, the Roadless Area Conservation Rule was postponed for further review by the Bush administration, and with the help of the Congressional Review Act, might be permanently curtailed.

Passed in 1996, the CRA was largely ignored until this March, when it was used for the first time to axe the newly crafted Occupational Health and Safety Administration's (OSHA) workplace ergonomic rules. The product of more than ten years of rsearch and debate, the rules would have helped protect workers from on-the-job injuries such as carpel tunnel syndrome, back sprains, and other repetitive stress injuries.

Tagged on as a provision to the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, the CRA gives Congress 60 session days to review and--if it chooses--to reject federal agency rules. …

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