In office for barely 10 days, Oregon's new attorney general, John Kroger, has come out swinging.
In a news release today, Kroger, a Democrat, announced that he'll be filing suit in federal court to overturn two of the "midnight regulations" George W. Bush issued in the waning days of his presidency.
"These regulations were designed to put in place controversial policies which the administration could not get passed through the United States Congress," Kroger said. "I disagree with many of these regulations as a matter of public policy, but as Attorney General, that is not my primary concern. For me the fundamental questions are whether these midnight regulations conform to or violate the law and are harmful to Oregonians. After careful review, we have concluded that two of these midnight regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of the Interior violate existing federal laws and negatively impact our state."
One of the regulations Kroger is attacking stipulates that medical and hospital workers don't have to provide "morning-after" contraceptive pills to patients if it goes against their consciences.
This rule "threatens the rights of some of our most vulnerable crime victims," according to Kroger. "Under Oregon law, victims of rape have the right to be informed about and receive emergency contraception when they go to the hospital. If enforced, the new Bush administration regulation threatens that right."
The other rule Kroger plans to challenge says that government agencies don't have to weigh the potential impact on endangered species in considering whether to give the go-ahead to development, mining and other activities. This regulation "modifies, and in our view, violates the Endangered Species Act," Kroger says. "It invites government agencies and businesses to damage the environment without fully considering the impact of their actions on global warming and the threat to endangered and threatened species."
Kroger said he expects the challenge to the HHS regulation to be filed today in Connecticut and the action against the Interior Department regulation to be filed "in the next day or two" in California.
Besides suing to block the two "midnight regulations," Kroger said he's also going to fight today's order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approving the Bradwood Landing Liquid Natural Gas terminal on the Columbia River. "That order allows the ... project to proceed without proper regard to its impact on Oregon's water quality and coastal resources," Kroger said.
The Bradwood Landing site is one of three LNG terminals that developers want to build in Oregon. The plants have been the target of furious opposition from environmentalists, and whether Kroger would move against them was seen as a test of Gov. Ted Kulongoski's willingness to (as Oregonian blogger Ted Sickinger put it) "back up his long-standing complaints about [FERC's] regulatory process with a federal court challenge."
So far, then, it looks like Kulongoski and the new AG are seeing eye-to-eye. Kroger even concluded his news release with a little love note to Kulongoksi: "Finally, I want to thank the governor for his leadership and support on these issues. Having a governor who is also a very fine lawyer makes life easy for an attorney general."