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Regulatory News Update

The Bush administration says its plan to cut polluting emissions at U.S. power plants would avoid 12,000 premature deaths a year by 2020. The estimate is based on new EPA research. The Bush plan would reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions from electric generating plants by about 70%.

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman said the new data show that "we can improve the quality of the air we breathe and achieve these results faster, at less cost to consumers and in a way that makes sense for the environment, for industry and for the health of the American people."
Whitman said the plan would nearly eliminate the most severe impacts of acid rain in the Northeast. And she maintained it would reduce the number of lakes in the Adirondack Mountains harmed by acid rain from the current 25% to just 3%.

Meanwhile, Chairman James Connaughton of the White House Council on Environmental Quality praised President Bush's decision to withdraw from an international climate treaty last year. Connaughton told a Senate panel: "The Kyoto Protocol would have cost our economy up to $400 billion and caused the loss of up to 4.9 million jobs, risking the welfare of the American people and American workers."

Grocery stores and poultry processing will be the focus of the next two sets of OSHA's industry-specific guidelines to reduce ergonomic-related injuries. OSHA chief John Henshaw says representatives from both industries will help the agency come up with the guidelines. "The number of ergonomic-related injuries suffered by workers in the retail grocery store industry continues to rank near the top of the list," Henshaw explained. "While the rates in poultry processing aren't as high, workers still suffer from too many upper extremity disorders, such as tendinitis and
carpal tunnel syndrome."

Draft guidelines for each of these industries are expected to be ready for public comment later this year. OSHA is already working with representatives of the nursing home profession on the first set of ergonomic guidelines. The agency's efforts to reduce workplace ergonomic injuries concentrate on a combination of industry-targeted guidelines, strong enforcement measures, workplace outreach, advanced research, and dedicated efforts to protect Hispanic and other immigrant workers.

Government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have agreed to voluntarily register their common stock with the SEC and follow federal corporate disclosure requirements, beginning in 2003. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill hailed the announcement and said it would prevent the administration from supporting legislation to repeal Fannie and Freddie's long-standing exemptions from federal securities laws.

SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt said the companies' move "reflects a commitment to the goals the president has called upon us to meet, and toward which we are all working: exemplary corporate governance, complete transparency of financial information, and full and fair disclosure." The agreement makes the two mortgage-market giants subject to the same disclosure requirements as other publicly traded companies-including filing audited annual and quarterly financial reports to the SEC.

By Don Fulsom, former UPI White House reporter.