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Bush Delay of Critical Consumer, Worker and Environmental Safeguards Has Wide-Ranging Implications

Jan. 30, 2001

Bush Delay of Critical Consumer, Worker and Environmental Safeguards Has Wide-Ranging Implications

Public Citizen Releases Compilation of Safety Standards Affected

WASHINGTON, D.C. Public Citizen today released a compilation of crucial consumer, worker and environmental protections that were recently approved by the Clinton administration but delayed by the incoming Bush administration. The delay could be detrimental to the environment, people s health and our natural resources, Public Citizen has concluded. Further, the safety standards that are in limbo could be dramatically altered before being allowed to take effect.

President Bush s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., issued a memo on Jan. 20, 2001, to federal agency heads in which he postponed for 60 days the effective date of any new regulation that has been published in the Federal Register and has not yet taken effect, so long as a deadline for the rule is not statutorily or judicially mandated. This would affect scores of new safety standards approved by Clinton agency heads in recent months, including at least 12 rules that would make major improvements in protecting the public, workers and the environment, according to Public Citizen s report, “Public Safeguards at Risk!”

The Card memo also requires agencies to withdraw new safety standards that had been signed and sent to the Office of Federal Register for publication but had not been published prior to the issuance of the memo. The report identifies at least three standards affected by this requirement: Environmental Protection Agency rules to improve air quality and eliminate haze, and require monitoring of the environmental and health effects of genetically modified crops, and a proposed Agriculture Department rule requiring packagers of hot dogs and ready-to-eat meats to test for the dangerous Listeria pathogen.

“No law gives Mr. Card the authority to stay rules that have been signed, sealed, delivered and published,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “It s urgent that these protections, which represent years of work by agency experts, move forward. If industry groups object to any final standards they can petition for reconsideration, not use their financial connections to the Bush administration to try to rescind, delay, defang or derail these standards.”

The Public Citizen report also documents 12 “Safeguards to Watch,” regulations that are so named because they are key to public health and the environment but are likely to be strongly opposed by industry groups, which are sure to use their close connections to the Bush administration to try to derail them.

“The Card memo is just the opening skirmish in what we expect to be a protracted war between special interests and the public s interest under the Bush administration,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen s Congress Watch. “We anticipate a return to the ways of the former Reagan and Bush I administrations, when important safeguards proposed by the agencies were sent into an OMB [Office of Management and Budget] black hole, where they were delayed for years, eviscerated or buried under the guise of administration review. “

The report identifies many of the uncertainties and legal issues raised by the Card memo. For instance, Public Citizen questions whether there is legal authority for the president, or his chief of staff, to order an across-the-board 60-day freeze of the effective date of standards promulgated by agency heads.

Safeguards Affected by the Card Memorandum

  • Control of Deadly Microorganisms in Food
  • Genetically Modified Crops
  • National Organics Standards
  • Clean Air in National Parks
  • Protection of Federal Forests
  • Energy Conservation
  • Arsenic in Drinking Water
  • Public s Right-to-Know about Industrial Releases of Toxic Lead
  • Pollution from Diesel Engines
  • Protecting Wetlands
  • Lead Poisoning in Children
  • Snowmobiles in National Parks
  • HMO Protections for Medicaid Patients
  • Workplace Dangers
  • Mine Safety

Safeguards to Watch

  • Juice Safety
  • Quality of Poultry
  • Large-Scale Factory Farm Pollution
  • Medical Privacy
  • Protecting Patients in Gene Therapy
  • Ergonomics Protections
  • Injury Tracking and Reporting
  • Protections for Medical Professionals
  • Protection from Tuberculosis
  • Prevention of Deadly Vehicle Fires
  • Reducing Head and Neck Injuries in Crashes
  • Protections to Prevent Tire and Other Defects