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Regulatory News Update

Rather than impose new regulations on employers, OSHA will create voluntary guidelines to reduce repetitive stress injuries among employees. Administrator John Henshaw says the agency will begin issuing industry-specific guidelines by the end of 2002. He declines to say how many guidelines will be issued or which industries will be targeted. In announcing the move, Henshaw declared: "Thousands of employers are already working to reduce ergonomics risks without government mandates. We will go after the bad actors who refuse to take care of their workers." He added that OSHA would not take action against employers "who are making good-faith efforts to reduce ergonomic hazards."

In a 152-page report, the OMB has come up with a plan for stricter scientific analysis of government regulations. The plan would expand the staff of the agency's Office of Regulatory and Information Affairs. And it would enable that office to hire scientists and engineers to consider a rule's costs as well as its benefits. At the same time the report was issued, President Bush stressed his intention to provide regulatory relief to small businesses. He told a group of small business leaders: "If there are nettlesome regulations which are costly for you to operate your business that you don't think make any sense, I urge you to get on the Internet and wire the OMB your problem."

In a major victory for cable, the FCC is allowing cable companies to offer high-speed Internet service-without having to open their networks to competing access service providers. In a 3-1 vote, the commission said the decision was necessary to spark more investment in high-speed services. The vote classifies high-speed Internet service as an "information service" rather than a telecommunications service subject to stricter regulation. Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy said the ruling would "promote our goal of fostering a minimal regulatory environment that promotes investment and innovation in this competitive market."

A federal appeals court has upheld stringent Clinton-era pollution control standards for the nation's air. And EPA Administrator Christie Whitman says agency will act "right away" to implement the five-year-old rules. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the EPA did not exceed its authority by setting guidelines for ozone levels and particle emissions in 1997. Industry groups had filed suit over the standards, calling them "arbitrary and capricious." The EPA estimates that hundreds of counties violate the tougher soot and smog standards.

The American Kennel Club is lobbying against a Senate-passed measure specifying how often dogs can be bred and how their puppies are treated. The AKC warns that the legislation-the Puppy Protection Act-could require the Agriculture Department "to go into hundreds of thousands of individual homes to inspect and regulate" how breeders and even ordinary pet owners treat their dogs. Animal welfare groups say the proposed rules are aimed at "puppy mills" that mass-produce puppies. The act limits how often dogs can be bred and requires that puppies be properly socialized by exposure to people.

By Don Fulsom, former UPI White House reporter.