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Bill would block last-minute Labor Dept rule
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    WASHINGTON — A House committee chairman is trying to stop the Bush administration from implementing a late-term rule that could make it harder to limit worker exposure to dangerous chemicals in the workplace.
    Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, said Thursday he’s introduced legislation that would block the Labor Department from finalizing the draft rule, which came to light last week.
    Among other things, according to early drafts, the rule would create additional public notice and review by Labor Department political appointees before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration could do risk assessments that lead to limits on exposure to chemicals or toxins in the workplace.
    The current assumption that workers serve for 45 years, and thus would be exposed to compounds such as asbestos or lead for 45 years, would also being revisited under the proposal the department is pushing forward in the waning months of President Bush’s second term.
    ‘‘Congress will not stand for any backdoor effort by the political appointees to further cripple our nation’s ability to respond to vital health and safety concerns,’’ said Miller.
    Labor Department spokesman David James dismissed Miller’s complaints.
    ‘‘The draft rule Congressman Miller seeks to stop has not even been issued yet and will follow every step of the public rule-making process as established by Congress,’’ James said. ‘‘Once Congressman Miller and his special interest friends review it, they may agree that it is good policy.’’
    The department has disputed descriptions of the rule but has declined to discuss its contents since it is not yet final.

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