The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal 2016 appropriations bills funding the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Labor on June 25, addressing two key concerns for the aggregates industry.

The committee adopted an amendment from Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., that would prevent any new “regulations relating to occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica until additional studies and reports are completed.” The Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA’s) proposal to reduce the current exposure limit is not supported by sound science and will create a tremendous financial burden for many industrial sectors. The amendment defunds action on the rule until a small business impact panel is conducted and several studies are completed by the National Academy of Sciences. The studies include the ability of affected industries to comply with the new standard and the ability of commercial laboratories to measure silica accurately and consistently. If an omnibus appropriations bill is required at the end of the calendar year, NSSGA will work to see that the silica amendment is included. Read the full text of Sen. Hoeven’s amendment.

The committee’s report accompanying the bill also addresses an important aggregates industry issue, the storage of ammonium nitrate. It requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify any provisions of OSHA’s current regulations that may be updated. Also, the language demands a cost/benefit analysis. The report questions the need for new standards as “there is no record thus far of an accidental detonation of ammonium nitrate in a situation where a storage facility has been compliant with OSHA’s existing regulations [.]” A committee report is a guidance document for the agency and does not have the force of law.

NSSGA has been very involved in the efforts to include these additions to the 2016 Labor-HHS appropriations bill and will continue to work for their inclusion in the final legislation.

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