Monday October 02, 2017
Generators and Voluntary Standards Get Attention at Buerkle's Hearing
Carbon monoxide (CO) risks from portable generators and the interplay of voluntary versus mandatory standards were among the topics getting attention September 27 at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing. The session included CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle's nominations to be chairman and to get another seven-year term as commissioner. The session also addressed three non-CPSC nominations. The committee plans to address her nomination at its October 4 markup.
The generator issue arose early in questioning by Ranking Member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who noted that there had been at least 11 generator-CO deaths in just his state in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. He pushed Buerkle to explain her negative vote last fall (PSL, 11/7/16) on moving forward with an NPR. She reiterated her concerns about jurisdictional conflict involving emissions and EPA.
The questioning evolved into a discussion of the merits of voluntary standards with Nelson questioning their worth and at one point asserting, "Manufacturers wouldn't do it because it's voluntary." Buerkle focused on the efficiency and buy-in aspects of consensus requirements. Later, Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) elicited her confirmation of CPSC's mandate to work within the voluntary standards system but that it has authority to seek mandatory rules if there is not substantial compliance with voluntary provisions.
Nelson later issued a press release saying he "slammed" her for her "ties to the portable generator industry," including pressing her to acknowledge that she has suggested PGMA's Patricia Hanz be considered as CPSC general counsel. Prior to the hearing, he and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) issued a release pointing to their recent letter to CPSC and EPA about jurisdiction (see related story in this issue).
Other highlights of Buerkle's questioning included:
Meanwhile, Buerkle's prepared testimony (bit.ly/2fqWjBx) included her assertion that she intends to focus on four areas: matching resources to highest priority risks; ensuring surveillance vigilance (including cooperation with Customs); seeking "robust engagement" on voluntary standards; and improving CPSC's data capabilities and sources.