The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial and General Government on Thursday held a budget hearing on the Consumer Product Safety Commission, with testimony from CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and Commissioner Anne Northup.
Commissioner Northup’s statement highlights all the problems that can occur when regulatory agencies abandon risk-based analysis, forced in this case by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Very good statement:
In both 2009 and 2010, the CPSC focused its time and resources principally on implementing the CPSIA. Although the Commission is a relatively small agency (FY 2010 funding of $118.2 million), its budget has grown by nearly 48 percent since the law’s passage in 2008, with both old and new resources shifted away from risk-based priorities to implement the arbitrary, non risk-based mandates of the CPSIA, including the lead content and phthalates bans, the Public Database, and the third-party testing, certification and labeling requirements. Over the past two and one-half years, the Commission has issued an estimated 3,500 pages of regulations and guidance documents as a result of the CPSIA—a large portion of which must be read and understood by every affected company in order for them to grasp the law’s complex requirements.
The diversion of the Commission’s resources to CPSIA implementation reduces our focus on genuine safety hazards. Our agency is charged with “protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death” from consumer products—but we cannot fulfill this mission if our time is spent primarily enforcing the CPSIA, including its non-risk-based lead content and testing requirements.