Issue Date: January 7, 2008
Policy Changes In Budget Bill
WHEN PRESIDENT George W. Bush signed the huge 2008 omnibus federal spending bill late last month, it included several non-budget-related provisions that will impact the chemical enterprise. The last-minute appropriations measure gave members of Congress the opportunity to insert many unrelated measures into the law, including chemical plant security rules, restrictions on chemical fertilizers, and mandatory access to NIH research results.
The open-access provision orders NIH to provide the public with online access to published research that was supported by NIH. This means that all NIH-funded investigators will be required to deposit electronic copies of resulting peer-reviewed manuscripts to PubMed Central—NIH's online, publicly accessible journal archive—for posting no later than 12 months after publication. NIH's current policy calls for voluntary submission of manuscripts.
Journal publishers, including the American Chemical Society (which publishes C&EN), have expressed reservations about the mandatory posting of manuscripts. "We question how a mandatory policy can be implemented consistent with respect for author and publisher copyrights and intellectual property interests and why NIH chose not to work more cooperatively with scientific publishers in achieving goals for public access," says Glenn S. Ruskin, director of the ACS Office of Legislative & Government Affairs.
To allay concerns about chemical plant security regulations, a provision authored by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) was included in the bill that stops the federal government from preempting state laws on chemical security if they are stricter than the federal rules. This has been sought by many state governments but opposed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the chemical industry, which view it as unnecessary.
The legislation also includes a provision by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) requiring DHS to create a national regulatory system for ammonium nitrate, the potentially explosive fertilizer ingredient used in several terrorist attacks. The bill requires all ammonium nitrate facilities and purchasers to register with DHS, and registrations will be checked against the government's terrorist watch list.
Congress also included a provision for mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of the U.S. economy. EPA is to issue a proposal on emissions reporting by September and finalize a rule by mid-2009. In addition, Congress directed the agency to restore the technical and other libraries that EPA closed in 2006 and 2007. Meanwhile, EPA is to report to Congress on a plan to reduce costs of the agency's laboratory infrastructure (C&EN, March 26, 2007, page 32).
Finally, a provision in the bill prohibits FDA from closing or consolidating any of its laboratories or regional offices. FDA had proposed closing seven of its 13 labs responsible for testing food and drugs, as well as five field offices, but the plan was suspended in August due to heavy opposition from consumer health advocates and agency staff.
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