CPSIA Update: CPSC Commissioner Moore Weighs In, Marginally

Commissioner Thomas Moore of the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Friday submitted his own, separate letter in response to Rep. John Dingell’s request for information on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s implementation. Moore, a Democratic appointee, did not join in signing the letter sent by Acting Commission Chairman Nancy Nord, a Republican.

Obviously, politics is at play. The CPSC is now split 1-1, with a vacancy for the third, Democratic appointee. Now that we see Moore’s letter, we’d guess Nord asked him to sign a joint letter and he declined. (See earlier post on Nord and the staff’s response.)

Unfortunately, Moore’s letter lacks the value of Nord’s communication, or rather, her submission of a 20-page, detailed assessment by the professional staff of the CPSIA’s critical flaws. His letter reads as if it were designed primarily for political self-preservation and to serve the purposes of Moore’s patrons on Capitol Hill. Bureaucratic CYA, in other words. For example:

[I] think that when the agency gets the third Commissioner we will be better able to address some of the concerns voiced by staff and by industry. Until then any legislative “fixes” are premature. Only the Commission should recommend what, if any, changes should be made to the CPSIA and no assumptions should be made that there are no other solutions than legislative ones until all three Commissioners have a voice in the matter.

Moore letter does not acknowledge the main issue: The CPSIA is a dismal failure, causing tremendous economic harm, destroying businesses and harming consumers. He’s telling small business owners, retailers, manufacturers, consumers, people forced to discard inventories, etc., that the CPSC will address their concerns soon enough, maybe, if the agency ever gets a chairman.

Billions of dollars being wasted but there’s no need for a legislative fix? That’s just not a serious response.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Chairman Dingell:

Thank you for your letter of March4, 2009, regarding the Commission’s implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA).

Nearly two years ago I stated that the CPSC was at a crossroads. We would either get more funding and more staff or we would continue a decline that would eventually result in the agency ceasing to be an effective force in consumer safety. At that same time, wave after wave of press stories about hazardous products that the agency hard purportedly not acted on in a timely manner were appearing and recall after recall involving lead were being announced. In response, Congress, and the citizens it represented, decided that not only should the agency survive but it should regain its lost stature. Through the CPSIA we were given new enforcement tools, manufacturers were required to prove that their products met national safety standards and the agency was given the resources (after a decade of seeking them) to build an IT system that will pull all of our disparate pieces of hazard data into one comprehensive, searchable database that will enable the agency to spot emerging hazards in a much timelier fashion.

The CPSIA presents both opportunities and challenges for our staff. Despite the fact that the agency did not get the immediate increase in funding that the Act envisioned our staff has done a remarkable job of meeting the Act’s deadlines( in some cases many months before the Act required them to be met). Staff has done this with an agency that only has two Commissioners who do not view the Act in the same light and who do not always agree on the Act’s meaning. This has left the staff unsure in some instances about how to proceed and caused delays in providing guidance and in prioritizing the agency’s work. That is also why there is no Commission response to your questions. The single most important step that needs to be taken in furtherance of the implementation of the CPSIA at the agency is to have the third Commissioner, who would also be the Chairman, appointed to lead the agency. Then the Commission would be able to give the staff direction and attend to various concerns that have gone unaddressed. This would also eliminate the threat of year another loss of quorum, which has happened twice since July of 2006, and which would severely hamper the continued implementation of the CPSIA.

Congress has entrusted this agency with a large and important mission. The passage of the CPSIA was a huge vote of confidence for the agency and despite the hue and cry of some in the business community who will never be happy with the closer scrutiny and accountability required by the Act, it is a major accomplishment of the last Congress and done at your leadership in instrumental in achieving.

I do agree with staff that additional time to implement certain of the Act’s provisions (such as the one that made nearly all of the voluntary requirements that in ASTM’s F963 mandatory) would have been preferable. However, I think that when the agency gets the third Commissioner we will be better able to address some of the concerns voiced by staff and by industry. Until then any legislative “fixes” are premature. Only the Commission should recommend what, if any, changes should be made to the CPSIA and no assumptions should be made that there are no other solutions than legislative ones until all three Commissioners have a voice in the matter.

Sincerely,

Thomas H. Moore
Commissioner

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