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E-M:/ NRDC calls Levin Health/Safety/Environment Reg-Relax Bill, S. 981, "Dangerous"

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Natural Resources Defense Council's

The Bulletin for Environmental Activists

February 26, 1998



The information in this bulletin is available on NRDC's Worldview website at
http://www.nrdc.org/field/acti.html. The web version links to background

Twice a month this bulletin calls out urgent environmental issues requiring
grassroots action. Typically, it mixes new items with carry-overs from
previous editions. But, since S. 981, the dangerous regulatory reform bill
sponsored by Sen. Thompson and Sen. Levin, soon may be marked up in the
Governmental Affairs Committee and could go to the floor quickly, we are
dedicating this week's entire page to this sweeping legislation. Action must
be taken now to assure that Senators realize how damaging this bill is for
human health and the environment. For more detailed information on this bill
see our Regulatory Reform page at


Stop Backdoor Assault on the Environment and Public Health

S. 981, misleadingly titled "Regulatory Improvement Act," would dramatically
tilt the regulatory playing field, already hazardous grounds for outgunned
public interest advocates, in favor of big businesses able to deploy legions
of economic consultants and lawyers to challenge public safeguards and
infiltrate regulatory agencies. While sponsors characterize the bill as
simply an effort to improve decision-making at Federal agencies, this
legislation, like earlier regulatory reform bills, would impose numerous new
economic tests and procedural hurdles that must be surmounted before any
regulatory safeguard to protect our air or water, our food supply, or
consumer or workplace safety could be issued. Also like earlier bills, this
measure would arm industry lawyers with numerous new grounds for challenging
public safeguards in court.

The bill's new requirements include mandates for specific and unworkable
cost-benefit determinations and complex "risk assessment" processes that
will put agencies on a perpetual research treadmill. Layered on top of these
processes is a mandate for a resource-intensive review of virtually every
rule already on the books. Every one of these new demands will be fodder for
industry lawsuits aimed at killing new safeguards or crippling existing

The industrial interests behind this bill know the new red tape would
prevent the government from doing its job in any area subject to the law.
That's why the bill exempts rules and decisions that favor business.
Expressly exempted from the bill's reach are virtually all measures that
govern securities trading, banking, monetary policy, corporate mergers and
acquisitions, and new product approval. The product approval exemption is
especially egregious, since any effort to remove these same products from
the market to protect consumers would be subject to the full burden of the
bill's requirements. In fact, the bill targets the range of measures
designed to protect the public health, safety and the environment, including
rules concerning pollution, unsafe food, dangerous consumer products and
unsafe workplaces.

Big business claims the bill is needed to force federal agencies to consider
costs, but federal agencies are already required, by both law and executive
order, to evaluate the cost and benefits of regulations. A series of low
profile initiatives approved by the last Congress require agencies to
undertake cost-benefit analyses and consider impacts on small businesses and
state and local governments. These laws not only require a thorough
evaluation of costs and benefits, but also give Congress new fast-track
authority to overturn any new rules. 

In today's climate of unprecedented economic growth and corporate
profitability, there is good reason to wonder why it is necessary to rush a
sweeping regulatory reform bill through the U.S. Senate before even taking
the time to see how federal agencies grapple with these "reforms" of the
past Congress.

It is critical that Senators hear from their constituents on this issue. The
bill could be marked up as early as next week and could go quickly to the
floor. Please call your Senators right away and urge them to oppose S. 981.
Tell them that this insidious bill not only threatens safeguards that have
already been passed, but also would make it extremely difficult for
government agencies to pass new safeguards to protect our air, our water,
and our environment.

== Who to contact ==
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: 202-224-3121

For more detailed contact information, see "The Zipper" at



The Natural Resources Defense Council distributes two bimonthly bulletins by
mailing list: EARTH ACTION, which calls out urgent environmental issues
requiring grassroots action, and LEGISLATIVE WATCH, which tracks bills
moving through Congress.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a non-profit environmental
organization with 350,000 members nationwide and a staff of scientists,
lawyers and environmental experts. Our mission is to protect the world's
natural resources and improve the quality of the human environment.

For more information about NRDC or how to become a member of NRDC, please
contact us at:

NRDC Online
Natural Resources Defense Council
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212-727-4511 (voice) / 212-727-1773 (fax) 

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