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Rules freeze may benefit gray wolves and unions

Associated Press / January 22, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Gray wolves might benefit and sellers of investment products might not under President Obama's freezing of all proposed federal-rules changes left unfinished by George W. Bush's administration.

Obama's order, which took effect as soon as he was sworn in Tuesday, gives his administration an opportunity to review numerous pending actions affecting the environment, labor relations, and other fields, and to decide whether to block them.

For example, the Interior Department under Bush had announced plans to remove gray wolves from Endangered Species protections in much of the northern Rocky Mountains. And the Labor Department was in the process of letting companies that manage employee retirement plans to promote additional investment products to plan participants.

Those proposals, and many others, will be reviewed by Obama appointees. Liberal advocacy groups hailed the freeze order, which was similar to those announced by Bush and other presidents as soon as they took office.

Obama's order requires agencies to reexamine pending rules changes not yet published in the Federal Register. For items recently published in the register, the effective date can be postponed for several weeks, the order said.

Other proposals now under review would allow mining deposits to be dumped within 100 feet of flowing streams, according to the environmental group Earthjustice; increase financial reporting requirements for labor unions; limit overtime pay for some groups of workers; expand the type of jobs available to 14- and 15-year-olds; and allow employers not to disclose some pension plan expenses.

Many Bush administration regulations recently took effect and cannot be undone by Tuesday's order. They include a rule stripping Congress of its power to prohibit mining, oil, and gas development on federal lands in emergency situations, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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