Policy & Regulation Outlook for 2009 (Part 2)

December 24, 2008

Continued from Part 1.

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ENDANGERED SPECIES

Department of Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney released a report Dec. 15, 2008, that further castigated Julie MacDonald, a former deputy assistant secretary overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service who resigned in 2007, for interfering with more than two dozen decisions on endangered species. Last year, the Interior Department reversed seven other decisions on endangered species, due to interference from MacDonald and others. These tainted decisions, as well as the entire Endangered Species Act, which continues to come under sharp criticism from many sides, may be prominent topics in 2009 and beyond.

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FEMA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has often taken it on the chin in the past few years, triggered in large part by its response to Hurricane Katrina. Concerns have continued until the present, as issues such as poor air quality in the travel trailers and mobile homes provided to refugees, and the still-unresolved resettlement of many people, stay in the news.

To add to the agency's burdens, university researchers have recently released a report that concludes that corruption is strongly tied to areas that are recipients of FEMA aid.

Reforms within the agency, if they occur, would be important news topics, especially if predictions of more extreme weather linked to climate change, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, continue to bring public attention to the agency as it attempts to help the people affected.

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ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

The concept of environmental justice has had some standing since President Clinton issued an Executive Order in 1994, but critics charge that there has been little effective action to remedy problems.

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ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME

Many media stories and independent reviews have suggested that agencies responsible for addressing environmental crimes, such as EPA and the Dept. of Justice, have been much less active during the Bush administration. A shift in this strategy would be important news.

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CHILDREN'S ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH

Children's environmental health issues have had a relatively low profile during the past eight years, as indicated in part by the lengthy vacancy period and high turnover rate for the top job at EPA's Office of Children's Health Protection.

Children's environmental health issues are a concern for many people, since children tend to be more vulnerable to pollutants. EPA has claimed some progress in this field, but many critics say few significant advances have been made in the past eight years. The efforts of new EPA administrator Lisa Jackson likely will provide an indicator of the level of concern the Obama administration has for this issue.

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REGULATORY REFORM

Criticism of how the federal government conducts its environmental regulatory process has been mounting on all sides for many years. Controversies range from the use of cost-benefit analysis in determining regulations, to the nitty-gritty of how toxic chemicals are tested and regulated. The Obama administration may try to make its mark in this area, but it'll be likely be slow going, due to the complexity of the issues, and the influence of vested interests who generally benefit from the status quo.