Dole v. United Paperworkers of America

110 S.Ct. 929 (1990)



JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.


Among the regulatory tools available to government agencies charged with protecting public health and safety are rules which require regulated entities to disclose information directly to employees, consumers, or others. Disclosure rules protect by providing access to information about what dangers exist and how these dangers can be avoided. Today we decide whether the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has the authority under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (Act) to review such regulations.


In 1983, pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA Act), which authorizes the Department of Labor (DOL) to set health and safety standards for workplaces, DOL promulgated a Hazard Communications Standard. The Standard imposed various requirements on manufacturers aimed at ensuring that their employees were informed of the potential hazards posed by chemicals found at their workplace.


Respondent United Steelworkers of America, among others, challenged the Standard in the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. That court held that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had not adequately explained why the regulation was limited to the manufacturing sector, in view of the OSH Act's clear directive that, to the extent feasible, OSHA is to ensure that no employee suffers material impairment of headline from toxic or other harmful agents. The court directed OSHA either to apply the hazard standard rules to workplaces in other sectors or to state reasons why such application would not be feasible.


DOL complied by issuing a revised Hazard Communications Standard that applied to worksites in all sectors of the economy. At the same time, DOL submitted the Standard to OMB for review of any papelarder requirements. After holding a public hearing, OMB approved all but three of its provisions. OMB rejected a requirement that employees who work at multi-employer sites (such as  construction sites) be provided with data sheets describing the hazardous substances to which they were likely to be exposed, through the activities of any of the companies working at the same site. . . . OMB also disapproved a provision exempting consumer products used in the workplace in the same manner, and resulting in the same frequency and duration of exposure, as in normal consumer use. . . . Finally, OMB vetoed an exemption for drugs sold in solid, final form for direct administration to patients. . .


OMB disapproved these provisions based on its determination that the requirements were not necessary to protect employees. . . . DOL disagreed with OMB's assessment, but it published notice that the three provisions were withdrawn. DOL added its reasons for believing that the provisions were necessary, proposed that they be retained, and invited public comment. . .        

The union and its copetitioners responded by filinga motion with the Third Circuit for further relief. That court ordered DOL to reinstate the disapproved provisions.


The United States sought review in this court. We granted certiorari to answer the important question whether the Paperwsork Reduction Act autorises OMB to review and countermand Agency regulations mandating disclosure by regulated entities directly to third parties . . . We hold that the Paperwork Reduction Act does not give OMB that authority, and therefore affirm.


The Paperwork Reduction Act was enacted in response to one of the less auspicious aspects of the enormous

growth of our federal bureaucracy: its seemingly insatiable appetite for data. Congress designated OMB the overseer of other agencies with respect to paperwork and set forth a comprehensive scheme designed to reduce the paperwork burden. The Act charges OMB with developing uniform policies for

efficient information processing, storage and transmittal systems, both within and among agencies. OMB is directed to reduce federal collection of

all information by set percentages, establish a Federal Information Locator System, and develop and implement procedures for guarding the privacy of those providing confidential information. . . .


The Act prohibits any federal agency from adopting regulations which impose paperwork requirements on the public unless the information is not available to the agency from another source within the Federal Government, and the agency must formulate a plan for tabulating the information in a useful manner. Agencies are also required to minimize the burden on the public to the extent practicable. . .


In addition, the Act institutes a second layer of review by OMB for new paperwork requirements. After an agency has satisfied itself that an instrument for collecting information - termed an « information collection request" - is needed, the agency must

submit the request to OMB for approval. . . . If OMB disapproves the request, the agency may not collect the information.


By contrast, disclosure rules do not result in information being made available for agency personnel to use. The promulgation of a disclosure rule is a final agency action that represents a substantive regulatory choice. An agency charged with protecting employees from hazardous chemicals has a variety of regulatory weapons from which to choose: It can ban the chemical altogether; it can mandate specified

safety measures, such as gloves or goggles; or it can require labels or other warnings alerting use~s to dangers and recommended precautions. An agency chooses to impose a warning requirement because it believes that such a requirement is the least intrusive measure that will sufficiently protect the public, not because the measure is a means of acquiring information useful in performing some other agency function.


No provision of the Act expressly declares whether Congress intended the Paperwork Reduction Act to apply to disclosure rules as well as information gathering rules.


Disclosure rules present none of the problems Congress sought to solve through the Paperwork Reduction Act, and none of Congress' enumerated purposes would be served by subjecting disclosure rules to the provisions of the Act. The statute makes clear that the first purpose-avoiding a burden on private parties and state and local governments refers to avoiding "the time, effort, or financial resources expended by persons to provide information to a Federal agency." . . . Because Congress expressed concern only for the burden imposed by requirements to provide information to a federal agency, and not for any burden imposed by requirements to provide information to a third party, OMB review of disclosure rules would  not further this congressional aim.


Congress' second purpose-minimizing the Federal Government's cost of handling information-also would not be advanced by review of disclosure rules bcause such rules do not impose any information processing costs on the Federal Government. Because the Federal Government is not the consumer of information "requested" by a disclosure rule nor an intermediary in its dissemination, OMB review of disclosure rules would not serve Congress' third, fourth, fifth, or sixth purposes. Thus, nothing in Congress' itemized and exhaustive textual description of its reasons for enacting this particular Act indicates any

legislative purpose to have OMB screen proposed disclosure rules. We find this to be strong evidence that Congress did not intend the Act to authorize

OMB review of such regulations.


Its meaning is clear: the public is protected under the Paperwork Reduction Act from paperwork régulations not issued in compliance with the Act, only when those regulations dictate that a person maintain information

for an agency or provide information to an agency.


We affirm the judgment of the Third Circuit insofar as it held that the Paperwork Reduction Act does not give OMB the authority to review agency rules mandating disclosure by regulated entities to third parties.