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From: TSS (216-119-129-13.ipset9.wt.net)
Subject: Bush Victory Helps Clear (CUT) Regulatory Landscape
Date: November 5, 2004 at 1:15 pm PST

Bush Victory Helps Clear Regulatory Landscape

BY JIM BARNETT
c.2004 Newhouse News Service


WASHINGTON -- Big business used to hedge its bets on politicians, giving about the same amounts to each party. But no more. Many industries subject to environmental and health regulations bet big on a second term for President Bush and won.

Forestry, mining and agriculture were among the industry sectors that gave the highest shares of campaign cash to Bush. Employees and political action committees of forest-product companies, for example, gave $4 to Bush for every $1 to Sen. John Kerry.

For many leaders in these industries, betting on Bush was obvious: In its first four years, Bush's administration built a consistent record of simplifying, scrapping or scaling back enforcement of regulations that added to the cost of doing business.

"We were very worried, more so than we were with Al Gore," the Democratic nominee in 2000, said Chris West, vice president of the American Forest Resource Council. Had Kerry won, the industry would have gone into "hunkered-down mode," he said.

Bush has a historic opportunity to carry out his vision of a more business-friendly bureaucracy, observers said. Unlike President Clinton, he has attempted to change the way agencies develop regulations, and he already has left a deep imprint on how the federal government writes and enforces regulations. With four more years in office, his impact could last for decades.

"What a second Bush administration might do is deepen and further embed the regulatory changes already under way," said Lisa Heinzerling, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. "You embed the personnel, you embed the methodologies, and pretty soon you can't imagine the world looking any different."

The Bush administration, for instance, has made heavy use of cost-benefit analysis, putting a premium on the economic impact of proposed regulations. It also has proposed discounting benefits of environmental regulations realized by the elderly and the infirm.

Exactly how the second Bush administration will capitalize on its opportunity to reshape the bureaucracy remains to be seen. But supporters and critics alike mention several areas that could become regulatory hotbeds:

-- Air pollution: Bush's Clear Skies Initiative has languished in the Senate, prompting the administration to pursue regulatory changes. The Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to take another high-profile step this spring when it releases its plan for limiting emissions of mercury.

-- Endangered species: With Congress unlikely to pass major changes to the Endangered Species Act, the White House could streamline the planning process for agencies from the Forest Service to the Army Corps of Engineers. A likely target would be the requirement that agencies develop an environmental impact statement before taking action.

-- Forestry: Under Bush, the U.S. Forest Service suspended and then began rewriting a Clinton-era rule halting logging in 58 million acres of "roadless" national forests. In a second term, the agency probably will issue a revised rule that would open more areas to active management and logging, said Wesley Warren, a former assistant budget director under Clinton. "Roadless is a case in which they plainly have a very aggressive agenda that they're pressing," said Warren, now with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "They definitely would try to continue pressing that to the advantage of the logging industry."

Neither Bush nor Kerry spent much time discussing regulations during the campaign. But on his campaign Web site, Bush promised that he would continue trying to reduce the regulatory burden on industry as part of his plan to create jobs.

"Although some regulations are essential to protect consumers, workers and the environment, the cumulative regulatory burden has proven to be particularly onerous for small businesses and those trying to create new jobs," Bush's statement said.

The administration will continue to review existing regulations for possible streamlining and added flexibility, the statement said. And it will continue to emphasize economic impact and the use of "sound science" in decision-making.

Bush's efforts in his first four years were rewarded handsomely by employees and political action committees tied to natural resource and agriculture industries. They gave Bush nearly $10 million through Sept. 13, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. By comparison, Kerry received $1.3 million through the same period.

Although Bush's regulatory policies have won kudos from business groups, the re-elected president probably will come under continued scrutiny from scientists and environmentalists who say the administration has twisted facts and figures to meet its political agenda.

Among other things, scientists have chastised Bush for ignoring warnings about the threat and potential impact of global warming. And critics say administration officials put public health at risk by misrepresenting conclusions from the only federally sponsored study on the risk of mad cow disease.

On the economic front, Bush's budget office has issued agencies instructions for preparing economic analyses of proposed rules. But it also has suggested controversial methods for calculating benefits: In 2003, for instance, the budget office proposed discounting the value of seniors' lives saved by reduced air pollution.

"Cost-benefit analysis has taken on a whole new life in this administration," Heinzerling said. "There are a lot of people, including myself, who are a little bit uncomfortable about that. Another four years may entrench that methodology."

Nov. 5, 2004

(Jim Barnett can be contacted at jim.barnett@newhouse.com.)

http://www.newhousenews.com/archive/barnett110504.html

TSS




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