Saturday, June 24, 2006

Another Health Rule Boggs Down?

Worth taking time to read this week is another piece in Jordan Barab's Confined Space. (How is this guy so productive? And he has a full-time job.)

Read down to June 20:

"Industry Pushes Chemical Gag Rule To Keep Information From Workers and the Public"

The gist: "It's war!" against the Department of Labor, declares Representative Charlie Norwood (R-GA) in a hearing on OSHA's use of consensus health standards. OSHA requires employers to inform workers about these in its HazCom rule.

MSHA Metal and Nonmetal health regs have long incorporated consensus health standards published in the 1973 edition of the Threshold Limit Values developed by the American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists.

Reportedly, Henry Chajet of Washington law firm Patton and Boggs told Norwood that OSHA, MSHA and the Department of Energy are "abrogating their duties through an insidious delegation of government authority that denies our fellow citizens the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the protection of the laws enacted by the Congress."

But do read the whole Confined Space piece.

Patton and Boggs is a legal and lobbying firm that describes itself as follows:

Patton Boggs was among the first national law firms to recognize that all three branches of government could serve as forums in which to achieve client goals. For more than 40 years, we have maintained a reputation for cutting-edge advocacy by working closely with Congress and regulatory agencies in Washington, litigating in courts across the country, and negotiating business transactions around the world....

We think laterally at the threshold: What venue, or combination of venues, would best serve our clients’ goals?...Our projects frequently involve novel and complex policy questions, and our clients come to us knowing that we won’t stop with the law books in looking for the best solution.

Mr. Chajet has had a highly successful practice in the mining industry as his curriculum vitae indicates.

For instance:

For ten years, he has served as counsel to a coalition of diesel engine users who conduct health effects research in conjunction with government agencies and participate in diesel-related regulatory matters.

As to that, to reprise (partly) an entry in this blog from last February:

The coal mining sector accepted underground diesel emissions exposure limits without contesting them, several years ago.

The rules for non-coal mines were first proposed in 1998 and became final [after extensive industry participation]right at the end of the Clinton administration in January 2001. But industry complaints then led MSHA to delay the compliance schedule and reopen the rule. A key opponent has been the Mining Awareness Resource Group (MARG) Diesel Coalition, spearheaded by veteran mining industry attorney Chajet.

According to [Washington Post reporter] Cindy Skrzycki, Chajet has referred to the rule as a
"giant failed high school science project,"
despite extensive health and feasibility studies.

This month, former MSHA special assistant Celeste Monforton published a knock-down-drag-out narrative of the metal/nonmetal diesel rule's contorted course in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Public Health. (Abstract is here.)


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