Overlooked in the commotion surrounding President Reagan's proposed spending cuts is a second administration list being assembled that will draw the attention of regulators, legislators and lobbyists.
It is a target list of major health, safety, environmental and social regulations that the president's aides are determined, in the words of budget director David A. Stockman, to "defer, revise or rescind." They range from testing of food and drugs to safety and pollution control equipment on autos to industry's handling and disposal of hazardous chemical wastes.
The first step in that direction came this week, when Reagan issued an executive order centralizing regulatory policy-making under a new task force headed by Vice President Bush, backed up the Office of Management and Budget.
Bush's aides would not detail the regulations they have in their sights. But they did say 14 major regulations set down by Stockman in his "Dunkirk" memo to Reagan in November and a longer list prepared recently by the Chamber of Commerce provide an indication of where the administration is headed and why.
Stockman offered his list as a hasty indication of the "staggering" opportunity presented the administration for stopping the forward march of regulation.
The Stockman list included recommendations to:
Waive the emission standard for carbon monoxide on 1982 model automobiles.
Repeal the Department of Transportation's regulation installation of automatically locking seat belts or airbags in cars beginning with full-sized models this September.
Simplify and relax the rules on certifying and testing to make certain their emission controls are working properly.
Eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency's emissions controls on small industrial power plants.
Delay or relax EPA's proposed rules requiring industries to treat plant wastes before they are discharged into municipal sewage systems.
Cancel proposed Energy Department regulations to increase energy efficiency of home furnaces, refrigerators and other major appliances.
Defer the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for controlling noise in the workplace.
Modify or defer pending OSHA standards on scaffolding; on worker exposure to three toxic substances asbestos, chromium and cadmium, and on grain elevator dust control.
In urging his deregulatory offensive, Stockman said manufacturers would save hundreds of millions of dollars a year, giving a powerful boost to business confidence and Wall Street optimism.
Thus far, items on the list ar looking like ducks in a shooting gallery.
Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis has proposed a one-year delay in the automatic seat belt-air bag regulation (providing enough time to seek to eliminate it, if the administration chooses). Energy Secretary James B. Edwards has put a freeze on the proposed energy standards for home appliances. And Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan has said the OSHA standard for noise levels, due to take effect March 30, will be "closely scrutinized."
The administration's strategy is to force a review of existing rules to see that they satisfy Reagan's new policy for regulators: No regulation should be issued unless it is necessary and unless benefits to society are reasonably related to its costs. All regulations should follow the least costly approach.
No Major new rules will be issued unless they meet these requirements, except where specific regulatory action is required by Congress or the courts. e
But finding the "least-cost" approach and calculation the benefits will not be simple for Reagan regulators, as one example shows.
Near the top of Stockman's list is the government's two-step approach to control carbon monoxide. The first step sets a health-based ambient air standard -- the maximum permissible amount of CO in the atmosphere. The second sets emission limits for new cars because that is considered the surest method of reducing carbon monoxide in the air.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, many urban areas still do not meet air quality standards for carbon monoxide, although there have been steady gains in reducing CO discharges from autos.
OMB estimates the auto industry could save about $300 million a year if the current limit on CO tailpipe emissions of 3.4 grams a mile were raised to 7 grams per mile. Congress permits a two-year waiver if auto companies are not able to achieve the standard at reasonable cost.
But EPA insists the new car standard must be low to offset higher-level discharges from older autos and CO discharges from industry smoke stacks and agricultural burning, for example.
The two sides are still debating whether 3.4 or 7 grams per mile is necessary to achieve the overall reduction of CO.
While he was still a Michigan congressmen, Stockman told conference on automobile technology: "It's pretty clear that the problem here is limited to high CO concentration at peak driving times in limited urban areas. In these cases, the rush hour surge of vehicles and emissions does generate large CO concentrations that clearly are hazardous to health. But the fact is that in most suburban and rural areas, given the number of automobiles on the road today at today's emission levels, there isn't any problem. . . .
"Perhaps this question reflects a rather parochial point of view, but it's worth asking: Why should my rural constituents have to pay $200 or $300 or $400 extra for CO control that does absolutely no good where they live?"
An even more difficult question -- one that the Reagan administration will have to answer -- is what sector of population the EPA regulators should be trying to protect.
Guided by Congress, EPA has decided the CO air quality standard should be set low enough to protect people with cardiovascular illness. In effect, EPA calculates the amount of CO that would cause painful breathing among this portion of the population, adds a margin of safety and then sets the standard. That, in turn, determines the tailpipe standard.
The standard is subjective, according to a review last year by the Carter administration's regulatory review staff. It is higher than needed to protect the majority of the population, but not high enough to protect particularly sensitive groups, such as fetuses.