Ergonomics standard moves ahead
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's final Ergonomics Program Standard went into effect January 16, 2001, despite several legal challenges, Congressional hostility and the impending arrival of a new administration. The workplace rules, aimed at reducing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), affect nearly every U.S. business, except those engaged in construction, rail operations, maritime activities and agriculture. Business and labor groups are challenging the standard, with 12 lawsuits consolidated in a single proceeding in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. "If the ergo rule isn't stopped, it will waste billions of dollars and provide little or no benefit to workers," said Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The standard requires businesses to inform workers about common repetitive stress symptoms and to set up a program to monitor and address signs of MSD in the workplace. The new OSHA standard is among a flurry of administrative edicts issued in the last days of the Clinton Administration. The Bush Administration has not indicated it will seek to undo the OSHA standard or other executive agency actions. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said "each and every one" of Clinton's orders would get a review early in the administration.
Cheese companies correct violations
The Environmental Protection Agency says it has allowed 10 cheese companies to correct 264 environmental violations under EPA's audit policy. Because the firms voluntarily found, disclosed and corrected the violations, EPA waived penalties in the case. The companies are Dairy Farmers of America, Suprema Specialties Northeast, Inc., Wyeth Nutritionals, Inc., H.P. Hood, Inc., Friendship Dairies, Inc., First District Association, Great Lakes Cheese of New York, Inc., McCadam Cheese Company, Inc., Milnot Company and Saputo Cheese USA Inc. The 264 violations occurred at 32 facilities in 11 states and involved the Community Right To Know Act, requiring manufacturers to report releases of more than 600 designated chemicals to the environment. The 10 cheese companies failed to report the presence of water dissociable nitrate compounds, nitric acid and/or phosphoric acid at their facilities. In addition to EPCRA violations, Saputo Cheese USA Inc. reported and corrected violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) at 18 facilities. Before a settlement could be reached under the Audit Policy, Saputo was required to certify that it is currently in compliance with environmental requirements. Under the proposed settlement, Saputo will pay $10,943, which is the amount they saved by delaying compliance with EPCRA and CWA. The settlement is not final until it is approved by the Environmental Appeals Board.
EPA proposes feedlot controls
EPA is targeting water pollu-tion caused by large feedlot operations, proposing a new set of strict controls. The new requirements would affect as many as 39,000 concentrated animal feeding operations nationwide. EPA says only 2,500 of these operations currently have enforceable permits under the Clean Water Act. Under the EPA proposal, the definition of a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) would be expanded to include small operations, below the current 1,000 animal minimum, if they are deemed to be "a threat to water quality." The new controls would also require poultry, veal and swine operations to prevent all discharges from their waste storage pits and lagoons where wastes are collected; eliminate potential exemptions from permits currently used in some states; require corporations and contract growers to certify to both EPA and the states they have financial resources to meet environmental requirements; and limit the spreading of manure on land owned by livestock facilities.
FDA asks operators to screen corn
The Food and Drug Administration is asking corn dry-milling and masa operations to screen yellow corn for a genetically altered version that may have slipped through a buy-back program. The StarLink corn, containing the pesticidal protein Cry9C, was authorized for animal, but not human use. StarLink's developer, Aventis S.A., and USDA began a buy-back effort after investigations found traces of the StarLink corn in some taco shells. FDA is asking the extra screening because it believes some of the corn from the 1999 crop may still be in grain elevators. In one of his last directives before leaving office, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman asked the public for input on what steps USDA should take to promote the marketing of biotech crops while helping segregate them from non-biotech products. "In order to protect our domestic and foreign markets and ensure public confidence, it's essential that we improve our ability to identify and track genetically modified farm products," Glickman told USDA's Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology.