The Reagan administration yesterday named 27 more federal regulations it intends to review and presumably change, including in the affirmative action requirements for all federal contractors and some of the government's most controversial environmental and job safety regulations affecting business.
Vice President Bush said the 27 regulations would be reviewed in the next two or three months to see whether they comply with the administration's regulatory objectives, which is to eliminate regulations that are not "cost-effective."
Bush, who heads the Reagan deregulation task force, said the administration is keeping its promise "to achieve the regulatory relief our economy desperately needs -- to reduce costs, to reduce inflation, to increase productivity and to provide for more jobs."
The administration also is maintaining a freeze on 36 regulations that were issued in the closing days of the Carter administration but suspended in an initial 60-day freeze imposed by President Reagan on July 29. Another 41 regulations caught in the freeze have been allowed to take effect, and 100 more will be released on March 30, when the 60-day freeze ends.
The administration already had indicated its intent to change some major environmental and health rules, such as the Interior Department's surface mining regulations and the Labor Department's carcinogens. These are among the 27 regulations that will be reviewed.
The list also includes the Agriculture Department's marketing orders for fruits and vegetables that give growers control over supply, the Department of Education regulations requiring special educational programs for handicapped children in public schools, and the Labor Department's method for determining the wages that government contractors must pay under the Davis-Bacon and Service Contract acts.
The administration's decision to review the federal contract compliance requirements -- the basis of the government's affirmative action program since the Kennedy administration -- could signal a major reversal of equal employment opportunity policy, said Donald Elisburg, who was assistant secretary of labor for employment standards in the Carter administration.
A 1965 presidential executive order, on which the affirmative action programs are based, forbids job discrimination and requires employers receiving federal contracts to develop specific plans for recruiting and hiring minority group members and women.
These requirements "should be reviewed to see if broad performance standards could replace the tight specifications," the administration said. Elisburg said the administration apparently no longer is interested in looking at hiring practices, just in results over a period of time. "I think that's somewhat naive," he said.
The entire range of federal programs for the handicapped also is targeted for review or termination. A requirement that schools keep emergency catheters on hand to deal with potential breathing or circulatory problems of handicapped children is the only one immediately halted, but all the regulations defining special education that schools must provide for handicapped children will be reexamined.
"School districts are concerned that federal funds for this program are inadequate," the Bush announcement said.
Education circles have been debating the merits of these rules since the law requiring education for the handicapped was passed in 1975. Particularly controversial are the parts requiring that handicapped youngsters be included in classes with normal children as much as possible, since such "mainstreaming" puts demands on teachers who may have had no training for it, takes teaching time from normal students and often causes discipline problems.
Similarly, the rules requiring all publicly funded mass transit systems to provide access to the handicapped will be reconsidered. The notice said New York City alone would have to spend up to $1.6 billion just to buy the equipment. In Washington, the rule became controversial in 1976 when delay in installing equipment for the handicapped postponed the opening of the Gallery Place subway station.
Other regulations newly up for review involve:
The Energy Department's coal conversion program, enacted by Congress to speed a switch by utilities and large industries from oil and natural gas to coal, and the department's "energy audit" program of home inspections to promote fuel conservation.
The Department of Health and Human Services' procedures for premarket testing of consumer drugs and medicines. "Concern from the public, Congress and the drug industry about delays in the existing process and its costs justifies a thorough review," the administration said.
Federal certification and surveys of hospitals, nursing homes and other institutional health care facilities.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's past preference, in a number of rulings, for engineering changes in plants to control noise and airborne hazards. The Reagan administration wants to give employers the flexibility to use respirators and other personal protective equipment when possible.
The vast network of rules governing the disposal of toxic chemical wastes. Issued during the past two years, the regulations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act apply to all hazardous wastes from all the nation's industries. Industry has attacked the rules as too stringent. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that businesses might spend up to $2 billion a year complying.
All the regulations governing strip mining have also been targeted for review, particularly the requirement that land be reclaimed to its "approximate original contour." Those rules now "could render some areas uneconomical to mine at all," the Bush announcement said.
Among the 36 regulations that will be held up indefinitely is a collection of rules affecting 30 major industries that discharge wastes into municipal sewage systems. The rules require greater pretreatment by industry to prevent damage to municipal plants. The EPA estimated that this would cost $23 million next year.
A less sweeping target of the orders, but one guaranteed to be controversial, is the lifting of the ban on oil and gas exploration in two California marine wildlife sanctuaries, the Channel Islands area near Santa Barbara and the Point Reyes-Farallon Islands area north of San Francisco.
Rafe Pomerance of the Friends of the Earth said yesterday's action on those islands was "outrageous and unnecessary" since many other drilling areas are available. "It's [Interior Secretary James G.] Watt versus the whales," he said.
A list of regulatory actions affecting automobiles is being prepared, Bush said.