CPSIA Update: No Appropriations Hearing on CPSC This Week

By March 23, 2009Economy, Regulations

Last Friday’s schedule of the House activities for the week ahead, part of the Congressional Record’s Daily Digest, included this subcommittee hearing for Wednesday:

Committee on Appropriations, March 25, Subcommittee on Financial Services, and General Government, on U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 10 a.m., 2220 Rayburn.

But today the hearing’s not listed on the committee website. A phone call to the committee confirms the hearing is no longer taking place Wednesday and no substitute date has been picked.

Which allows to again refer to the outstanding report from the professional staff of the CPSC, responding to questions from Rep. John Dingell about the implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Posted on the CPSC’s website Friday as part of a communication from Acting Chairman Nancy Nord, the document contains an extensive discussion of the many additional duties placed on the agency staff. It would be a worthy item of committee review. From page 1-2 of the March 20th memo:

[Issues] related to the accreditations of laboratories and the increasing number of requests for exclusions from the Act’s provisions have caused unanticipated additional demands on staff resources, at the same time that the staff has been implementing the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (which became effective in December 2008), and the Children’s Gasoline Burn Prevention Act (which became effective in January 2009). This has severely overstretched the agency staff and has begun resulting in delays in implementation that will continue until we are able to fully hire and otherwise maximize the resources that have just been provided to the agency for the second half of fiscal year 2009.

Three examples of the burden and complexity presented by the work on these issues are: (1) the continuing need to process and review applications for laboratory accreditation, including applications from government and proprietary firewalled laboratories, a process initiated by the CPSIA and one that the agency is handling for the first time in history; (2) the need for further refinement of guidance on the scope of the phthalates ban and, in particular, defining a testing method and dealing with compliance questions regarding the chemistry and carbon chain branching that determines whether a product contains a banned phthalates; and (3) the engineering raised by the Pool and Spa Safety Act and the need to reconcile state regulations on health and safety issues such as water quality with the need to drain covers as required by that Act. The Commission staff cannot address these and similar matters all at once, yet delay has serious economic impacts on the affected parties which no one anticipated would happen at the same time as the current economic downturn.

As we implement each new requirement, we are seeing unanticipated issues arise, and we are learning more of the far-reaching effects of the CPSIA and there will undoubtedly be more to learn. In August 2008 following passage of the Act, staff estimated that it would require a full annual $21.1 million and 59 FTEs to begin implementing the new legislation in Fiscal Year 2009. That same month, the Commission submitted an amendment in this amount to the then-pending President’s Budget Request through the Office of Management and Budget, as well as directly to Congress. In November 2008 a revised amendment was provided to Congress to reflect CPSC’s requirements for only the second half of the fiscal year. Through the first six months of implementing the CPSIA, none of this additional funding was received by the Commission.

The funding amount in the Commission’s revised amendment has just been approved by Congress. While we will use these funds to immediately and aggressively hire and train new staff, the six-month delay in funding will cause continued deferrals until such time that the agency fully absorbs the new appropriation. For Fiscal Year 2010 the Commission has requested additional funding to continue implementation of the CPSIA.

One quibble: Somebody probably anticipated the serious economic impacts.

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