The Reagan administration will soon release a list of 50 major federal regulations in the environmental, health and safety areas that it intends to subject to a strick regulatory review, James C. Miller III, director of the administration's Regulatory Relief Task Force said yesterday.
Federal regulatory agencies are now going over candidates for the list with Miller and his staff at the Office of Management and Budget, and Miller said he would not disclose what regulations will be included.
But he indicated that many, if not all, of the regulations will be substantially changed. The mandate to the regulatory task force, headed by Vice President Bush, is to change regulations that impose uneconomical and unjustified burdens on industry, not study them, Miller told the Computer and Communications Industry Association.
Miller reviewed the steps taken so far by the Reagan administration to reduce the impact of regulations. Department of Education regulations on bilingual education were withdrawn; President Reagan terminated regulations setting maximum and minimum temperatures in buildings; the deadline for introducing automatically closing seat belts or air bags in autos was delayed a year, and a regulation on warning labels for hazardous products was pulled back, Miller said.
"I think you've seen only the tip of the iceberg," Miller said.
Miller acknowledged that not all of the federal regulatory agencies have the staff or the skill to perform the assessments of regulatory costs and benefits that the Reagan administration is now insisting on. "Off the bat, we're going to have some undergraduate-quality work. As we go forward, we're going to have graduate work. I know we're going to make some mistakes, but I'm prepared for that." If the administration waited until it was absolutely certain that each regulatory decision was "bullet proof", it wouldn't achieve its goals of regulatory change, Miller said.
Administration officials said that one of the 50 targeted regluations will be the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's standard setting the limits on permissible exposure to lead in a range of industrial plants and smelters. The lead standard, perhaps OSHA's most significant health ruling, is the subject of a continuing legal argument between OSHA and the United Steelworkers of America, on one hand, and the lead industry on the other. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the lead standard last year, as it applies to the major lead smelting industries, but directed OSHA to conduct further hearings on whether it is economically feasible for a group of "secondary industries" like auto-making and paint manufacturing, to comply with the exposure limits.
Immediately following President Reagan's inauguration, attorneys for the lead industry persuaded OSHA to seek court approval to reopen the feasibility issue affecting the "secondary" companies. Now, administration sources said, the entire lead standard is being targeted for review.
The standard requires companies to reduce amounts of air-born lead in plants to a level four times as low as the voluntary standard in effect before OSHA was formed, in order to prevent lead poisoning of industrial workers. Although face masks could be used temporarily to provide the necessary protection, ultimately, companies would have to construct filters, hoods or other devices to clean the plant air, or reduce workers' time on the job, to satisfy the OSHA mandate.
OSHA, under the Reagan administration, is likely to seek a change in that regulation to permit the use of face masks and respirators as a permanent answer to the lead hazard. Under the Carter administration, OSHA officials considered that face masks and respirators didn't provide sufficient protection.