Skip to content

Senator Mike Enzi (ME): I'll just start off with a brief explanation on the exciting thing that's happening here this week and then we'll go to questions. I really am excited this week because the (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) OSHA bill that I've been working on since I got here will be up for mark-up in committee on Wednesday. Mark-up means that the committee will be taking final action on the bill. They will be accepting amendments and we'll be debating those amendments and voting on them and then we will have a final vote on the bill to get it out of committee. I've worked real hard to present a reasonable bill that could make it through the process. I checked when I first got here because of my previous actual experience with job safety and OSHA and drug and alcohol testing. I took a look at what had been done on OSHA in the past. There is an incredible amount of documentation here. I went through all of it and listed the things where there were agreement between Republicans and Democrats and the things there were disagreement. I put the things there was agreement on into the bill. I took the things there was disagreement on and I met with every business group, every employee group, unions, any group that would meet with me to talk about solutions to the problems that remain. Those that we were able to arrive at solutions for are a part of that bill. There is a companion bill now coming through from the House side sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans. We've already had the hearing on the OSHA bill, the SAFE Act and we have had some very favorable comment. We even had some surprising comments from the Democrats that are on the committee. Part of the reason I got those comments is because I've spent a lot of time talking to absolutely everybody on the committee so that they would understand the bill and understand where it was coming from. I'm real pleased with the fact that it will be up for mark-up and for the favorable comments that I've had on the bill. Of course, if we can get it through this mark-up stage and approved by the committee, and I'm relatively certain that we can, a cosponsor on the bill is Majority Leader Trent Lott and Majority Whip Don Nickles. Since they are supporters on it we ought to be able to get some floor time to actually debate it for final passage and that's pretty exciting. As we work toward adjournment here, I'm also working for the next stage which is to get it onto the floor and I'm real encouraged about it. I'm excited about Wednesday. With that brief opening I'll open it for questions on anything.

Dave Perry (DP) -- Let me ask you about that, Senator, if I may. I work here as an employer and I want to know what this bill would do for me in terms of my relationship with OSHA and the general subject of job safety.

ME -- We are not taking away any of OSHA's present capabilities but we are trying to give incentives to the employers to improve the job safety in their own business. We are doing that in one way by codifying some of the test programs there have been for the last 15 years. If they weren't successful we wouldn't have been testing them for 15 years. It's time to put them into law so that every single employer can utilize them to make things safer on the job. We also have a third party audit program where you would be able to hire an auditor who would come in and take a look at your business and make suggestions on what needed to be done. If you met those suggestions, fixed the things that needed fixing, then you would get a certificate of compliance and for the next two years you wouldn't have any surprise inspections by OSHA that would result in fines. They could still come in and do an inspection but they wouldn't be able to fine, (they would be able to suggest) unless you made a substantial change in your workplace. (The business would not be exempt from criminal penalties.) That gives a little bit of incentive. It costs the business to do it and make the improvements. But we think that is an incentive that will balance it out and make sure that we get a safer workplace for everybody. We also put some scientific basis on new rules and regulations that would be passed by OSHA. Again, there are some rules and regulations that have been trying to pass for as long as 13 years. They have the same group of people write the regulations, figure out the tests, do the testing and then review the accuracy of the testing. We want to speed things up a little bit by removing the testing into a separate area. Also to place a little more emphasis on individual responsibility. The employees need to wear their safety equipment, the things they control 100 percent themselves, their hard hats, safety tools, goggles, ear plugs, their personal equipment. So those are a few of the things that are in there.

Jennifer Cohn (JC) -- Can I switch gears for a minute? You said last week there was a foul aroma coming from the Park. Can you explain what suspicions you have about the Fund for Animals winter-use lawsuit and then your thoughts about snowmobiling in Yellowstone?

ME -- I thought the Park Service had jumped a little too fast to enter into a settlement rather than to pursue exactly what needed to be done in Yellowstone Park to assure that as much human use of the park as possible could be done. Through that process I also found out that there had been three lawsuits that were actually filed in Montana. This newest one was filed in Washington, DC. That's with knowledge that the issue was already being covered in another court. There are rules against doing that sort of thing. They are trying to circumvent the process and take it to a more favorable court. At least that is what it appears to be. That's unethical.

JC -- What do you mean by a more favorable court?

ME -- Well, I think that they think that the court in Washington might not understand the issues of winter use as well as one in Montana and so they might be able to get a ruling that would be a little bit more difficult toward use of the Park by utilizing the court out here.

JC -- Okay, along that line it seems like the Park Service may not want to have snowmobiling in the Park? Is that what your suspicions are about?

ME - I have some concerns about limiting winter use in the park and have had through this whole process. It isn't just a winter use problem that we are talking about here because another step would be to have the lawsuit over summer use, whether humans in the Park in summertime aren't putting stress on the animals that are there. The Park was designated for the enjoyment of humans as well as to preserve the wildlife. In fact, first it was done for humans and then at a later time was done for wildlife preservation. I think the two can live together. I don't think that enough effort has been put in to decide exactly what would be studied and why it would be studied and what the potential results would be. I'm always worried about funding a study or endorsing a study that people don't understand. There is a correct process to doing all these things. We are talking about an environmental assessment. Those are usually done to limit increased impacts in the future. This one appears to be going through a process of seeing if we shouldn't eliminate ones that are already there. There isn't a developed process for doing that kind of work. I get concerned about studies that don't have the background -- particularly the scientific background decided in advance so that we will understand the results when we get them.

JC -- What do you think about the Fund for Animals __________ with a mountain bike not to hunt?

ME -- I guess I'm not familiar with that.

JC -- The Fund for Animals are the same people who are involved with that winter use settlement. They have offered a $1000 mountain bike to any child who would turn in their hunting license and promise not to hunt for the rest of the season. It hasn't been received that well at least locally. There has been no takers on the bike.

ME -- I'm surprised that there aren't people who don't like to hunt anyway who didn't go out and buy a cheap rifle and a hunting license to trade it in for $1,000 bucks. That would be Wyoming entrepreneurship to me. I hadn't heard about that. But I'm not surprised that anybody who likes to hunt wouldn't take them up on that kind of an offer. That's one of those Wyoming values that it's hard to put a price on.

JC -- Another local issue, they are proposing to lease out 370,000 acres of Bridger Teton National Forest land for oil and gas exploration. Needless to say a lot of folks here are very upset about that. Do you think that is an appropriate use of public land?

ME -- Well, I'm a multiple use advocate but I'm against utilizing land that will damage Teton National Park or Yellowstone National Park or wilderness area or forest land. What we are talking about here is taking a look at 370,000 acres and doing a process that's already been defined to see if there should be any additional impacts there. Any, even a very small portion of that 370,000 acres. I think it is fair to go through the process. It will cost the companies involved in it a great deal of money. They may well find out they can't use any of it, but that is a process that we set up to see if it ought to be used and I don't have any objection to following the process.

JC -- Thank you, Senator. I'm all done with my questions.

DP -- Senator, I want to stay on that subject of land if I may. We have seen here in the checkerboard a land exchange involving sheep range near Dubois has been approved along with an exchange for Medicine Bow River ranch land. We saw the Elk Mountain land exchange come down and was ultimately stopped by the BLM because of public sentiment. Now we are seeing another land exchange proposed with parcels in the Shirley Mountains. I'm wondering what you think about these land exchange proposals and further is there any money or sentiment in Congress to buy land down here? To take private parcels to exchange them or do whatever there might be to kind of block up the checkerboard and make it more manageable for everybody?

ME --- I think there is a common sentiment that we'd like to see it be more manageable, more accessible for everybody, more useable for everybody. We run into difficulty when we start taking about federal money because we've been more than a little short of it. Just trying to balance the budget it just isn't there. That becomes a very difficult thing to do. Trading is a much easier thing to do. I've been watching the land trades throughout the state of Wyoming and they are not happening because people don't trust each other. I wish that all the parties would get together and figure out some kind of a mechanism that we could use where there could be some trust so there could be some trades that all the parties would feel confident that they were happening. Or maybe a process of the land being sold to accomplish it and build up a fund to purchase other land. That would be arms length transactions that would rule the price of the land. I haven't explored that in any depth. It is just something off of the cuff, but it might be a possibility provided that money were maintained to get habitat and access in the exact region where the other land came from.

DP -- Sure. And one of the criticisms that we hear about the Medicine Bow River transaction is that the land that is going into public hands is up by Dubois and it is not down here so you see a greater privatization of land south of Medicine Bow and there is no immediate close sort of exchange of public land here. Is there something the Congress might do about that to try to get more specific local exchanges going?

ME -- I'm certainly willing to work on any of those if we could just get all of the groups together that are involved in this and the private land owners and get them to come up with some kind of a mechanism that we could agree on. That's the difficult part. We keep talking about theory and then we get to talking about specific and we don't ever get to policy. I would really like to see that policy discussion. I hope that is something that can be carried on with more state emphasis than federal emphasis because the people out here really don't understand how wide open the spaces are in Wyoming and the ways that we have to utilize it and how much of it is federal. Those are all issues we try and teach them here but if we could keep those decisions closer to the local level than out here it would work a lot better.

DP -- I have one more if I may. I was reading an Associated Press story and I'll just read it to you. It's a quote from President Carter who is saying "Both political parties share the blame for the fact that Americans who want something from their government believe they must buy it with campaign contributions." He is assigning blame to his own party and to the Republicans alike. Do you agree with that?

ME -- If I thought the American public had to buy it I would really be disappointed. My experience out here is that there is access to the Senators at least and I'm relatively certain that it happens in the House from the little bit of contact that I have with the House folks' constituents. None of them feel they have to buy that access. (They feel) that they can get it. So I have a limited experience with that. We meet with the folks from Wyoming to the greatest extent we possibly can. That's several folks a day who come through here and probably usually an average of 100 kids a week. I don't think our government functions that way. (By paying for access.) My biggest disappointment out here is that there isn't more informal contact between Republicans and Democrats so that we get to know each other as people instead of opponents. If we could get that to happen, then we would have more movement on all of the issues because they wouldn't just be a political issue, they would be a solution to an American problem.

DP -- Here we are, we are so blessed in our state that we've only got less than half a million people and it's probably easier to get access to yourself or to Senator Thomas than it would be in a state like California, for example. Do you think there is a difference in the access of constituents, Wyoming vis-a-vis California?

ME -- Oh, there definitely is a difference there as they get more population. I've had Senator Boxer explain to me the 33 million people that she has and how she has to know absolutely every issue and in depth because she has a huge number of people that are affected by each and every issue. I responded by explaining to her I had right around half a million people and they expect me to know them and their issue. We handle things differently. I can concentrate more on individuals and their problems and she has to concentrate more on issues and the problems. Yes, there are differences in it but even with California I don't think they buy the influence to get to meet with them. There just isn't that kind of time for them.