In early 2011, after years of study, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration moved to reduce the permissible levels of silica dust wafted into the air by industrial processes like fracking, mining, or cement manufacturing. The move came after years of public comment and hearings, and reflected emerging science about the dangers posed by even low levels of dust. OSHA predicted the rule would save 700 lives annually and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis, an incurable, life-threatening disease.
The proposal stirred fierce opposition from an array of industries, which argued that the costs of reducing silica levels far outweighed the potential benefits. When OSHA pushed ahead, the lobbyists took their arguments to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a division of the Office of Management and Budget. Few people have ever heard of OIRA even though it is part of the White House and has broad authority to delay or suggest changes in any draft regulation.
OIRA’s deliberations on the silica rule began in February 2011, and lasted two and a half years. During that time, records show, its officials held nine meetings with lobbyists and lawyers ... Read more