Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CPSIA - Tenenbaum Has the Wrong Focus

Chairman Inez Tenenbaum is quoted in the September 21 issue of the Product Safety Letter responding to requests from manufacturers for "speed and clarity" (NAM meeting): "Clarity is what we want too. We want everyone to get it straight, to get the information out to suppliers, and make sure everyone gets it right."

Unfortunately, that's not quite right. Yes, everyone wants the water torture to end. Yes, stop talking about component testing rules and ISSUE THEM. To that extent, she's right. That would help. On the other hand . . . hurrying to issue guidance or rules that are shortsighted, worded in double-speak or obviously defective won't help anyone. Getting the word out about destructive or unworkable rules will only WORSEN the chaos and confusion. Nancy Nord issued a warning along these lines in her January 30 letter to Reps. Waxman and Rush and Senators Rockefeller and Pryor (attached to her statement explaining her vote to stay implementation of the CPSIA testing and certification requirements): "Although the staff has been directed to move as quickly as possible to complete its work, short-circuiting the rulemaking process gives short shrift to the analytical discipline contemplated by the statute." This remark was noted in the recent letter by Rep. Michael Burgess.

Interestingly, Ms. Nord also noted in her January 30 statement: "The stay will give the CPSC time to develop and issue rules defining responsibilities of manufacturers, importers, retailers, and testing labs. It will give the Commission time to rule on exemptions and exclusions from the lead provisions and develop and put in place appropriate testing protocols. It will give staff time to develop an approach to component parts testing, given the ambiguity of the statute on this point." If I still had a sense of humor, I might find this 236-day-old statement amusing. Nice to know that the staff could use this extra time so productively to crank out the component testing standard. . . what? It's not out yet? That CAN'T be right! Wow . . . .

Ms. Tenenbaum needs to understand that her challenge is not all about speed. She needs to get it RIGHT on the first try. Sending manufacturers down the river to meet a deadline is rather . . . shortsighted, and that's putting it nicely. Of course, to get it right may involve taking some political risk and publicly disagreeing with the Democratic demagogues. If she won't do that, we are all doomed, but then again, according to Ms. Tenenbaum, at least the end will come quickly.

I just can't guarantee that it will painless.


Mars Feeney said...

The difficulty the CPSC is having making rulings in regards to the CPSIA has nothing whatsoever to do with making sense of a complex law. Legal professionals sort out complex laws all the time. The reason the CPSC is struggling so, the reason so many of their statements appear nonsensical, is that they are trying to make an insane law appear sane.

Straight forward rulings on the CPSIA should not be this difficult for legal professionals. But straight forward rulings on the CPSIA would be as insane as the law itself and hence the struggle. The fact that they haven’t produced straight forward rulings indicates that in the heart of hearts they know, as well as the rest of us with an ounce of common sense know, that the CPSIA is deeply flawed.

For the CPSC to make rulings on, and to speak about, the CPSIA without sounding like Dr Jekyll would be simple. There are two ways to do it:

1) interpret the law as written and don’t try to twist it to make it sound reasonable when it’s not.

Or 2) this involves backbone – stand up and state the obvious: the king has no clothes, the law is not sensible.

About the hearing: the whole point of a congressional hearing is to inform congress and the law making process. Clearly that point has gone over Waxman’s head as the hearing made it abundantly clear he has no interest in being informed. A rubber stamping session feigning to be an information gathering hearing is nothing but an insult. Waxman must truly think his constituents are stupid.

Anonymous said...

Something like saying in their resellers guide "okay to sell cotton clothing and unpainted wood toys, anything else is best to test or not sell". Then in the same document saying "we don't want to put resellers out of business". Anyone following these guidelines would be out of business - it is impossible, yet they wrote it.

I would expect they'll keep writing the insanity because... well I have yet to figure that out, why we are here...