Bush Delay in Regulations Pleases Some, Angers Others

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Since taking office 10 weeks ago, the Bush administration has delayed or reversed scores of regulations pushed through in the waning weeks of President Clinton's term.

The regulations involve such diverse issues as arsenic in drinking water, medical privacy and snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park.

The latest regulation to get the axe was the so-called "blacklisting" rule, which would have allowed federal agencies to deny contracts to companies that may have violated federal laws.

The rule, adopted by the Clinton administration a day before it left office, grew out of a pledge former Vice President Al Gore made to AFL-CIO leaders in 1997. It was strongly supported by unions and hotly opposed by business groups.

John Schachter, a spokesman for the Business Roundtable, a lobbying organization for business groups, said companies opposed the rule because it would have barred those suspected of violating federal rules or laws -- but not convicted -- from receiving contracts.

The rule, which already had been delayed for 60 days, will be suspended for nine moths, including two months for public comments, after which it may be revised or revoked.

While the environmentalist community has been the most vociferous in objecting to the delays and reversals, the business community has applauded for Bush's actions, particularly his support for a congressional reversal of workplace injury regulations -- the so- called ergonomics rules -- adopted in December after a dozen years in the making.

"The last weeks of the Clinton administration were a gift- wrapping party for his most important and influential contributors," said Bill Miller, political director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "The Bush administration has prudently said, `before we move forward with implementing these (regulations) let's make sure that they were done right.'"

Alys Campaigne, legislative director for the National Resources Defense Council, said the decisions have less to do with policy than politics. "People are getting the best policy that money can buy," Campaigne said. "The industries that were the big fund-raisers in the campaign seem to be doing handsomely."

Anna Aurillo, legislative director of U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said the arsenic rule is a prime example of a regulation being withdrawn in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that it is needed.

The withdrawn regulation would have changed the 1940s standard of 50 parts of arsenic per billion in drinking water to 10 parts per billion, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and adopted by many leading industrialized nations.

"Arsenic is a known carcinogen. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know you don't want arsenic in your drinking water," Aurillo said.

Democrats have seized on the rule reversals, hoping to tap a rich vein of public outrage. …