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The Planet

YEAR IN REVIEW SIDEBAR: Contract on America's Environment

The Republican "Contract with America," 10 draft bills the GOP has vowed to push through in the first 100 days of the next Congress, represents a sweeping attempt to remake the way government functions. At first glance, the package has little to say about the environment. But buried within the bills -- which sport advertising-slogan names such as the "American Dream Restoration Act" -- lie a number of provisions that would indirectly undermine the foundation of environmental, health and safety protections.

A sampling:

  • The Private Property Rights Protection and Compensation Act: Compensates businesses, polluters and others who claim environmental protections reduce their property values by 10 percent or more. This radical reinterpretation of the Constitution could bankrupt governments' ability to enforce and enact environmental, health and safety protections.
  • The Risk Communication Act: Allows "peer panels" of scientists -- including scientists working for the industry being regulated -- to reject environmental and public-health protections by claiming they are based on "bad science."
  • The Federal Regulatory Budget Cost Control Act: Creates an upper limit for the total number of all federal regulations. For example, Environmental Protection Agency regulations to protect children from pesticides in food could be blocked because other agencies had already filled the quota of regulations.
  • The Administrative Procedure Reform Act: Requires regulations affecting more than 100 people -- virtually every federal regulation falls into this category -- to be subjected to an elaborate analysis by the Office of Management and Budget.

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