1995 Scorecard Vote
Claiming to reform the way federal agencies adopt regulations to protect human health, environmental quality, consumers, and workers, Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-KS) sponsored S. 343, a bill that would undercut existing legal safeguards and make it difficult to write the new regulations that laws require.
S. 343 would massively expand the analysis that agencies must do before issuing a regulation, even as their budgets are being reduced. To issue most new protections, agencies would have to complete detailed cost-benefit analyses, not just of the proposed rule and likely alternatives, but of any alternatives proposed by industry.
S. 343 would make it easier for businesses to eliminate safeguards through legal maneuvering. Minor flaws in the cost-benefit analysis could force a proposal to be set aside, as could an argument that a new alternative would be marginally cheaper or more convenient for industry. If a regulation were invalidated, no safeguards would protect the public until the rule-making process is repeated.
The bill would allow companies to file unlimited petitions to revise current rules -- petitions that would require analysis and response regardless of competing priorities for agency staff or resources.
The bill would empower regulators and industry to enter into new agreements, even sweetheart deals, waiving existing safeguards. Agencies could issue secret letters immunizing facilities against penalties. The public would have no recourse against abuses.
Majority Leader Dole brought his bill before the Senate for 11 days of debate over a four-week period. Among the many recorded votes, four are judged most important.
The 1986 Community Right to Know Act requires companies to report releases of certain toxic chemicals to EPA, which publishes the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), which in turn, enables communities to track the operating performances of local facilities. Industry leaders acknowledge that TRI has prompted voluntary action to reduce chemical releases.
A provision in S. 343 would allow industry to stymie new TRI listings and petition to strike existing ones based on claims that certain levels of exposure are not dangerous. Up to 90 percent of TRI listings could be affected.
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) offered an amendment to strike the provision. Senator Dole moved to table (kill) the Lautenberg amendment. On July 13, 1995, the Senate agreed to the Dole motion 50 - 48. NO is the pro-environment vote.