Miller, Kennedy Call for Withdrawal of Secret DOL Rule

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, called for the withdrawal of a last-minute rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that they say could slow the enactment of future health and safety regulations that protect workers.

DOL submitted the proposed regulation, “Requirements for DOL Agencies' Assessment of Occupational Health Risks,” to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) July 7. While the text of the proposed rule has not been made public, The Washington Post reported that the rule “would call for reexamining the methods used to measure risks posed by workplace exposure to toxins.”

Safety advocates are concerned that the rule potentially could impede the regulation of occupational exposure to toxins or chemicals and thus put workers at risk.

Miller said the administration is trying to rush through a “secret rule” that will hinder the work of health and safety experts.

“This secret regulation is an attempt by the Bush administration and the business community to fundamentally weaken the scientific process for enacting new regulations that protect American workers,” he said.

DOL Declines to Share Draft Rule

Miller and Kennedy sent a July 10 letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao requesting, among other things, a copy of the regulation and the reason it was not listed in DOL’s regulatory agenda. Their letter pointed out that the information provided on OMB’s Web site did not contain the rule’s abstract, legal authority, timetable, agency contact and other information required by Executive Order 12866.

DOL’s Assistant Secretary for Policy Leon R. Sequeira responded July 17, explaining that consistent with agency practice, the draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is not shared outside the executive branch until interagency review is complete and the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.

“The draft NPRM is not listed in the Department’s most recent regulatory agenda because when that agenda was issued, the Department had not determined it would pursue an NPRM,” Sequeira continued.

Sequeira’s letter also indicated that DOL has not identified either an NPRM publication date or a specific date for publishing a final regulation. In addition, DOL has not determined whether it will hold hearings on the proposal.

Call for Withdrawal

Kennedy and Miller called for the rule’s withdrawal in a July 23 letter.

“There are long-established directives to ensure that the Administration acts in a transparent manner so that the public has the time and ability to properly consider all proposals. It appears that the Department may be violating those rules,” they wrote.

After reiterating their interest in receiving the text of the proposed rule, the chairmen also requested documents relating to meetings and communications with outside groups regarding the development of the rule by July 29.

Spokesperson Anthony Coley stressed that Kennedy “strongly opposes” the circumstances surrounding the proposed rule.

“It’s outrageous that after spending seven and a half years refusing to respond to known workplace hazards, the Bush administration is now rushing to make it more difficult to protect workers from these dangers,” he said.

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