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E-M:/ Senator Levin's S. 981



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Enviro-Mich message from Joy Strawser <mec@voyager.net>
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Dear Friends of the Environment:

Senator Carl Levin is cosponsoring S.981 with Sen. Fred Thompson
(R-Tennessee), the "Regulatory Improvement Act." This bill strikes at
the
heart of all government rules. IT AFFECTS ALL ENVIRONMENTAL, FOOD
SAFETY,
PUBLIC HEALTH, DISABILLITY AND WORKER SAFETY PROTECTIONS INCLUDING THOSE
ALREADY ON THE BOOKS. This bill would make it much harder for government
agencies to protect the public by encumbering decision-making on all
existing and proposed rules with new red tape and allowing industry
scientists to suppress new protections in a secret "peer review"
process.

Senator Levin has often been a friend to the environment, labor and
consumers. However, this time he is leading a fight that is in direct
opposition to all these interests. In fact his reputation is particulary
useful for the industries who are behind this effort. 

Sens. Thompson and Levin recently introduced a substitute to S.981,
which in
several notable ways is worse than the original. A second hearing on the
Thompson/Levin regulatory "reform" bill is expected to be held on Feb.
24 or
25.  And very soon after--likely the following Tuesday, March 3-- it
will be
moved on to markup.

A sign-on letter from organizations opposing the Thompson/Levin
substitute
follows this message, as does a fact sheet detailing some of the changes
that have been made from the original bill. If you represent an
organization and wish to sign on to the Citizens For Sensible Safeguards
(coalition) letter, please
contact Reece Rushing by email at rushingr@rtk.net or phone at
(202)234-8494
and give your name,organization and phone number.


We are asking all concerned individuals to do the following:

1) Contact Senator Levin's office immediately at:

459 Russell Senate Office Buiding
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-6221
FAX: (202) 224-1388
e-mail:senator@levin.senate.gov

2)Send a letter to the editor of your local paper

3) If you or a member of your family belongs to a labor union, use union
mechanisms to alert others. (The AFL-CIO is opposing S 981)

4) Attend public field meetings with Senator Levin in the Grand Rapids
and Detroit areas.  Please contact Clean Water Action at (517) 337-4447
for more information.


More information follows below.

Thank You.

Lana Pollack
President, Michigan Environmental Council



************************************************************************
February 1998

Dear Senator:

As leaders of many of America's largest health, safety, consumer,
environmental, and worker protection organizations, representing more
than 20 million Americans, we write to urge you to oppose S. 981, the
"Regulatory Improvement Act," and the proposed substitute vehicle for
that legislation, released by Senator Thompson on February 4, 1998.

As you may know, many citizens as well as health, safety, and
environmental organizations have vigorously objected to S. 981 because
it would make it much harder for government agencies to protect the
public.  While the bill's sponsors assert the new substitute corrects
the major flaws in the bill, we do not agree.  Indeed, in a number
specific respects discussed in the attached analysis, the substitute
bill increases the difficulties that agencies would face in attempting
to safeguard the public.  The bill, if enacted, would severely damage
the government's ability to protect us all from serious harm to our
health, safety, and the environment.  For these reasons we urge you to
oppose its passage.

The substitute would hamstring health, safety, and environmental
agencies and threaten the public in five major ways.  The bill would:  

∑ Delay agency decision-making with new red tape that creates a thicket
of complex procedures for adopting new protective rules;

∑ Create major new opportunities for regulated interests to attack
protective rules in the courts;

∑ Establish a sweeping, time-consuming program allowing industry
scientists to suppress new protections in a secret "peer review"
process;

∑ Prevent agencies from addressing current threats by diverting scarce
resources to unnecessary mandatory reviews of thousands of existing
safeguards, without regard to the need for such review; and

∑ Place a priority on reducing compliance costs for regulated industries
rather than achieving needed protections.

These provisions of the substitute bill, separately and in combination,
would harm the publicís interest in safe food, safe water, safe
workplaces and a healthy environment by creating tests that emphasize
costs rather than safety, procedures that delay action, new tools for
lawyers to attack rules in court, unfair review panels, and impossible
demands to review existing rules that have been critical to progress we
have made in improving the quality of life over the last 25 years.  We
therefore respectfully urge you to oppose this legislation.

Sincerely,




**********************************************************************
MAJOR PROVISIONS OF THE S. 981 SUBSTITUTE THAT THREATEN
HEALTH, SAFETY, AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION


Ensnaring new safeguards in thickets of complex procedures that will
cause further delay.   Under the substitute, new major protective rules
cannot be adopted until the agency successfully completes a battery of
lengthy and complex  analyses, all of which provide repeated
opportunities for regulated interests to exaggerate the costs of
safeguards and understate the threats the agency seeks to address.  For
rules that address health, safety, and environmental threats (as well as
any rule that OMB chooses), the agency must first work through a risk
assessment process with numerous opportunities for delay (Sec. 624). 
Before beginning its risk assessment, the agency must issue advance
notice of its intentions and solicit risk data from the "public" (nearly
always the regulated interests).  As it carries out its risk assessment
each agency must subject the assessment to "peer review" (Sec. 625) and
must continually revise the bases for its risk conclusions as it
receives information from commenters.  Agencies would be placed on a
risk assessment treadmill, continually revising estimates based on peer
review and industry comments, delaying protective action for years.

Once a risk assessment is complete, the agency must incorporate it into
cost-benefit analyses for both its proposed rule and multiple
"reasonable alternatives."  These analyses are subject to one or more
additional rounds of "peer review."  Then the agency must make proposed
determinations as to whether its intended safeguard scores better than
all alternatives under the bill's cost-benefit tests and submit all
these materials for additional  review by the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB).  Next the agency must publish all of the documents for
public comment and, following receipt of comments, prepare "final"
cost-benefit analyses, possibly including revised risk assessments and
subject them to peer review.  It must then prepare final regulatory
determinations and submit these materials for a final round of review by
OMB. The 
bill also extends the OMB review time for each stage from a maximum of
four months to six months, causing further delay. Each of the many steps
in this complex review process creates an opportunity for opponents of a
new safeguard to argue that the agency should  stop, reconsider, revise,
or start over again.

One clear indication of the very real conflict between these analytical
red-tape procedures and the ability of government to make timely
decisions, is that the sponsors of the bill exempt nearly all government
rules that big business likes from the requirements of the law. (Sec.
621).


Creating new opportunities for courts to overturn safeguards.  The
billís procedural and analytical requirements will consume major
resources and delay decision-making in large part because the bill
directs courts to consider claims of errors in performing these tasks as
new grounds for overturning rules.  Section 627 of the bill requires
courts to consider the agencyís risk assessments, peer review process,
cost-benefit analyses, and cost-benefit determinations in deciding
whether to overturn an agency rule.  The bill adds new opportunities for
lawyers to get courts to reject rules after years of work.  Protective
rules that would be upheld today by courts could be overturned on
grounds that one or more of the new, complex studies and findings
required by the bill had not been performed properly.


 Creating a secretive and conflict-ridden new "peer review" process. 
Section 625 of the bill mandates the creation of peer review panels to
examine every agency risk assessment and cost-benefit study.  The bill
creates a statutory prohibition on peer review participation by any
person with the remotest connection to the agency but individuals with
the most egregious industry biases are free to participate as long as
the agency procedures do not bar involvement.  Thus, the bill takes
pains to protect regulated interests from alleged conflicts but makes no
effort to protect the public from industry conflicts.

In addition, the bill allows these panels to operate in secret. The bill
exempts these panels from existing "sunshine in government" requirements
and provides no alternative process to assure the panels will be subject
to public scrutiny.  Since, as a practical matter, criticism from these
panels can stall agency action for months or years, the combination of
potential industry bias and secrecy could have enormous impacts on
public protections.


Forcing wasteful reviews of thousands of existing rules.  The bill
creates two mandates for agencies to review their existing rules.  In
combination, these mandates are unworkable, will prevent agencies from
addressing current threats, and will waste taxpayer dollars by forcing
reviews of popular safeguards that are working well to serve the
public.  Section 632 provides for a selective review process and by
itself would not be objectionable.  However, new section 3(b) of the
bill amends existing law to create a judicially enforceable mandate for
review of all existing rules that a court finds would have a significant
economic impact on "small entities."  This provision would force
agencies to review, in a 5-year period, thousands of rules that apply to
large businesses, simply because of a significant effect on "small
entities."  When a related review provision was enacted in 1980,
Congress provided a 10 to 15-year period for review and provided that
individual firms could not use the courts to tie up agencies over
alleged failures to complete these reviews.  Prior law provided that
Congress would remedy alleged failures, allowing the oversight process
to prioritize the truly significant claims.  The substitute bill, would
for the first time make these sweeping, non-selective review provisions
enforceable in court for every rule with a claimed "small entity"
impact.  Under amendments passed by the last Congress, courts would be
given broad authority to even suspend enforcement of important
safeguards based on a claim the rule had not been reviewed by the billís
unworkable deadlines.  Compliance with this massive review provision
would force agencies to ignore pressing current risks and spend
taxpayers' dollars reviewing well-crafted rules with proven benefits
that is objectionable to perhaps only one business representative.


Tilting the playing field from protection to cost reduction.  Section
623 of the substitute makes an unfair economic test the central issue
that agencies must address in developing major protective rules.  An
agency must either adopt a rule whose cost-benefit performance is
superior to all others or it must simultaneously publish the alternative
that scores best on this test and explain why it did not select the
cost-benefit winner.  This test turns the focus of health, safety, and
environmental agencies from their congressionally established missions
of protecting the public to an unworkable emphasis on the value that
economists place on saving a child's life from environmental poisons or
preserving the habitat of the bald eagle.

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