Obama saves the environment. Sort of.

On Barack Obama’s first day as president, he put a halt to any “midnight orders” the Bush administration set in motion that hadn’t been finalized. The Obama administration will review the rule changes to see which, if any, should go forth.

The Bush rules include: removing federal protection for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes; opening parts of Oregon to logging, opening 2 million acres of public land in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah for oil-shale drilling; making it easier for factories and refineries to expand without applying for new federal pollution permits; and encouraging the commercialization of meat from genetically modified animals.

In a memo dated Jan. 20, inauguration day, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel wrote: “It is important that President Obama’s appointees and designees have the opportunity to review and approve any new or pending regulations. … no proposed or final regulation should be sent to the Office of Federal Register for publication unless and until it has been reviewed and approved by a department or agency head appointed or designated by the President after noon on January 20, 2009, or in the case of the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense.” (Find the full memo here)

Some rules, such as revisions to the Endangered Species Act that reduce scientific input, had already taken effect before Obama was sworn in and could take years to undo. He would need Congress’s approval to reverse Bush’s finalized regulations. He could also use the Congressional Review Act, which allows legislatures to kill a rule within 60 legislative days after it’s gone into effect. With this in mind, Emanuel’s memo also stated, “Consider extending for 60 days the effective date of regulations that have been published in the Federal Register but not yet taken effect …”

Some of the rules already in effect ease restrictions on mining companies who want to dump debris from mountaintop removal into waterways, allow people to bring loaded guns into some national parks, open up the Grand Canyon for uranium drilling, release factory farms from having to report air pollution from animal waste and let those farms decide for themselves if they need a permit to discharge animal waste into waterways.