WASHINGTON — A federal safety agency´s proposal for revising the confidentiality provisions of early warning reporting rules is getting predictably mixed reviews from all parties.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association likes some aspects of the changes recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to the confidential treatment of early warning data submitted under the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act.
However, the RMA holds fast to its original argument: that Exemption 3 under the Freedom of Information Act-which allows Congress to forbid information disclosure under a statute-makes it illegal for NHTSA to release any early warning data to the public. Treating such information as non-confidential, the RMA said, is a significant regulatory action under federal law and must be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers generally is more satisfied with the agency´s proposal, though it finds the provision to revise electronic submission of non-early-warning confidential business data impracticable.
Meanwhile, groups such as Public Citizen and the American Association for Justice-formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America-insist that allowing confidentiality for any early warning data violates both federal law and the public´s right to know.
NHTSA accepted comments through Jan. 2 on the confidentiality proposal published Oct. 31 in the "Federal Register." The agency was forced to submit a new document on the issue at the order of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The court ruled that NHTSA failed to give proper weight to confidentiality questions while creating the original rule.