A broad coalition of 20 organizations today sent a letter to Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman asking him and his committee to investigate whether high ranking officials at the Office of Management and Budget worked with industry lobbyists to develop a plan to weaken important federal regulations. Representing environmental, public health and safety, and labor interests, the groups are requesting that the committee look into reports that John D. Graham, OMB’s chief regulations officer, collaborated with industry lobbyists to develop a coordinated strategy to attack key environmental, public health and safety, and labor rights protections.
An email from a US House of Representatives Republican staff member to business lobbyists indicated that Graham asked Congressional staff to convene a meeting of lobbyists to identify regulations that industry groups want OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to consider as possible “sunset review candidates,” which could weaken the regulations. Today’s letter to Senator Lieberman included the list of 57 regulations targeted by House staff and lobbyists that were supposed to be submitted to Graham for review. The list includes regulations governing programs such as: clean water, air, toxic release reporting, and other environmental protection rules; the Department of Labor’s regulations on the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Davis-Bacon Act; 15 health and safety regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act; regulations on food labeling and new drugs; and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s regulations for licensing facilities.
“From what we have seen so far, it looks like John Graham and his industry cronies got caught taking aim at rules that ensure Americans’ quality of life and well-being,” said Maria Weidner, policy analyst for Earthjustice. “We would hope that something so egregious would not happen in the Bush administration, however, the information we have seen indicates that Congress should definitely investigate.”
Graham’s nomination was among the more controversial of President George W. Bush’s administration, with 37 Senators voting against his confirmation. Particular concerns were raised over his close ties to regulated industries during his tenure as director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis – an organization that receives the majority of its financial contributions from corporate interests and tends to reach anti-regulatory conclusions that favor the interests of the Center’s influential funders.
“If Dr. Graham’s close ties with industry have resulted in collusion with these lobbyists to compromise important public health, worker safety and environmental protections, then the US Congress and the American public deserve to know about it,” said Weidner.
Groups requesting an investigation include: AFL-CIO; American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees; American Rivers; Center for Science In The Public Interest; Clean Water Action; Defenders of Wildlife; Earthjustice; Endangered Species Coalition; Friends of the Earth; International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America, UAW; Laborers International Union North America; League Of Conservation Voters; Mineral Policy Center; National Environmental Trust; Natural Resources Defense Council; OMB Watch; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Public Citizen; Sierra Club; and US PIRG.
For a copy of the letter sent to Senator Lieberman and the list of 57 regulations targeted, call Ken Goldman at Earthjustice, 202.667.4500 x233.