American Textile Manufacturers Institute, Inc. v. Donovan

In American Textile Manufacturers Institute, Inc. v. Donovan, 452 U.S. 490, 101 S.Ct. 2478, 69 L.Ed.2d 185 (1981), representatives of cotton industry employers challenged proposed regulations limiting permissible exposure levels to cotton dust. Because cotton dust is a harmful physical agent that causes serious and disabling respiratory diseases, the Secretary promulgated the proposed regulation under Section 6(b)(5) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 655(b)(5). That section requires that the Secretary "set the standard which most adequately assures, to the extent feasible ... that no employee will suffer material impairment of health ...." The industry contended that the Secretary had not shown that the proposed standards were economically feasible, because he had not established that the cost impact of stricter cotton dust exposure standards bore a reasonable relationship to the anticipated benefits to employees. The Court rejected this cost-benefit argument as inconsistent with the language of section 6(b)(5), holding that the "plain meaning" of the word "feasible" is "capable of being done, executed, or effected." 452 U.S. at 508, 101 S.Ct. at 2490, 69 L.Ed.2d at 201. In American Textile, however, it determined that the general requirement of section 3(8) that all standards be "reasonably necessary or appropriate" could not be read to countermand the stricter and more specific requirement imposed by section 6(b)(5). The Court therefore rejected the cotton industry's argument that section 3(8) superimposed a requirement of cost-benefit analysis on the issuance of section 6(b)(5) standards. "Congress did not contemplate any further balancing by the agency for toxic material and harmful physical agents standards, and we should not 'impute to Congress a purpose to paralyze with one hand what it sought to promote with the other.' " American Textile, 452 U.S. at 512, 101 S.Ct. at 2492, 69 L.Ed.2d at 204.