Archived Outdoors

The Naturalist's Corner: In the midnight hour

Like ships that collide in the middle of the night, “midnight rules” and their undoing perpetuate and reinforce philosophical and ideological divisions in this country while enhancing partisanship and strengthening the hold and influence politicians and power brokers have over OUR economy, OUR liberties and OUR environment.

Midnight rules or regulations are federal regulations that can be enacted through the administration and executive agencies without congressional oversight. It’s a political game played by both parties. The term midnight rules or midnight regulations actually came into vogue at the end of Democrat Jimmy Carter’s last term when his administration set a record for midnight rules by producing more than 10,000 pages of new rules between Election Day 1980 and the January 1981 inauguration of Ronald Reagan. The term is in reference to the “midnight judges” appointed by John Adams as he departed the White House.

As would be expected, the volume of midnight rules rises exponentially when the incoming president is from a different party than the outgoing. Bush Sr. left a load for Bill Clinton, Clinton rolled up “midnight” honors with more than 26,000 pages of rules, and now G.W. Bush is passing on the favor to president-elect Obama.

We become complicit in the game when we start lauding midnight rules that are in line with our philosophies while decrying those rules we find objectionable. I am certainly included in the above “we.”

When I look at some of the midnight rules this lame-duck president has signed, I surely hope Obama has the will to address them:

• The rule that would allow federal land-use managers to approve highway, mining and logging projects without consulting with federal and/or biological experts on the effects of such projects.

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• The rule that allows mountaintop mining to dump sediment nearer to streams than is currently allowed.

• The rule that allows factory farms to dump wastes in waterways without permits

• The rule that gives factory farms exemptions from reporting noxious emissions.

• The rule that would ease restrictions on power plants near national parks.

• The weakening of New Source Review regulations making it easier for industry to skirt requirements for better pollution control.

The list goes on.

And I was one who applauded Clinton’s midnight efforts to create rules that provided more environmental protection. But the truth is, the whole concept and protocol that allows midnight rules is odious.

The fact that any administration can, at the stroke of midnight, implement regulations that have profound effects on its constituents, without its constituents having any oversight, is an anathema.

Rules and regulations that affect OUR economy, OUR liberties and OUR environment demand to be vetted in daylight under full public scrutiny — not passed at midnight.

Now, pardon me while I put my soapbox back behind the curtain — for now.

Don Hendershot can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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