Congress Funds OSHA, MSHA at 2015 Levels; NIOSH Receives Increase
On Dec. 18, Congress passed a federal budget for fiscal year 2016 that provides flat funding for OSHA and MSHA, and a modest increase for NIOSH. The total funding for OSHA of $552.8 million is $39 million less than President Obama had requested for the agency. Much of that difference comes from OSHA’s enforcement programs, which received $208 million, about $17.6 million less than the President’s request. Writing in his “Happenings on the Hill” newsletter (PDF; login required), AIHA Government Affairs Director Aaron Trippler observed that the funding for OSHA “isn’t enough to even keep up with inflation and will not allow OSHA to add personnel to the whistleblower program as planned or pursue other new agenda items.” MSHA’s total of $375.9 million was $19 million less than President Obama’s request. As with OSHA, the mine agency’s enforcement programs fared worst, receiving nearly $8 million less than the President had requested. Unlike its sister agencies, NIOSH saw its total funding grow to $339.1 million—$4.2 million more than the agency received for FY 2015 and nearly $56 million more than the President had requested for FY 2016. The omnibus appropriations bill was the first budget enacted by Congress in six years. From 2010 through 2014, Congress funded the government through continuing resolutions, which authorized federal agencies to continue spending at their current levels. The bill also includes a policy rider that prohibits OSHA from implementing changes to its enforcement policy for the agency’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard. The changes, which OSHA announced in July 2015, exempt retail facilities from coverage under the PSM standard. The language in the appropriations bill characterizes OSHA’s action as an “attempt to change prevailing agency policies without proposing regulatory changes under the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act” and requires the agency to submit the policy through the rulemaking and public comment procedure before it can be enforced. The individual appropriations bills that comprise the omnibus bill are available as PDFs from the website of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.