Monday May 08, 2023
Comer & Cruz Tell Consumer Reports to Divulge Writers' CPSC Interactions
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) April 26 pushed Consumer Reports to detail any contacts by its writers or other staff with anyone at CPSC over gas stoves. Their primary target is an October story about the products, but the letter is part of a larger effort to find evidence to support assertions of "a hidden pressure campaign run by environmental activists and the Biden administration to ban gas stoves." They also use the phrase "de facto ban" to invoke the possibility of impossible-to-meet rules that are not explicit bans.
The letter followed up Cruz's March directive for the publication to provide:
Cruz in March also insisted that Consumer Reports disclose similar details on whether its writers or others spoke with "the White House or anyone else in the administration" about CPSC and gas stoves. The April letter reiterates those demands.
Comer chairs the House Oversight Committee, and Cruz is ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee. Comer's panel has subpoena power. The April letter contains a legal warning not in Cruz's solo March letter (bit.ly/3HBo7AC):
"Further, this letter serves as a reminder to preserve any and all documents and information, including e-mails, text messages, internal message system messages, calls, logs of meetings, and internal memoranda, responsive to the requests."
The bulk of the lawmakers' demands (bit.ly/3Lnx4Pf) stem from a footnote acknowledgement in the October story that the Climate Imperative Foundation (CIF) helped pay for work behind the testing article, Funding is not necessarily an indication of control or influence.
Comer and Cruz sent similar follow-ups to CIF and to Rewiring America and Windward Fund. To all, they asserted that replies to Cruz's March inquiries were "unacceptable" and set a May 10 deadline for "a complete…response."
The article expressed concern about nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide emissions but also explained, "None of our testing revealed dangerous levels of carbon monoxide or particulate matter, nor did oxygen drop to unsafe levels."
The article (bit.ly/3nqKm5G) does not advocate CPSC or other government action but focuses on "the importance of using ventilation like range hoods and fans."
However, the piece was cited in a not-voted-upon and withdrawn proposal by Commissioner Richard Trumka to direct CPSC staff to create for commission consideration a draft notice of proposed rulemaking to ban gas stoves. He opted instead to seek a request for information. The resulting activity has a May 8 deadline (see related story).
An outright ban or unmeetable requirements would be at one far end of the range of possible outcomes of the request with doing nothing at the other far end.
"Consumer Reports" encompasses two arms of one organization – the long-named Consumer Reports media outlet that published the article but also Consumer Reports Advocacy, a 2018 rebranding for activities of the associated organization previously named Consumers Union.
The gas stoves issue involves matters both within and outside CPSC purview. The agency could regulate based on direct risks from emissions. But it has no jurisdiction over broader environmental or climate effects.