- The Honorable Ann Marie Buerkle, of New York, to be Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Rear Admiral (Ret.) Timothy Gallaudet, of California, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
- Mr. Howard R. Elliott, of Indiana, to be Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Department of Transportation
- Dr. Walter G. Copan, of Colorado, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Mr. Chairman, over the past few weeks we have seen the devastation hurricanes can cause. Irma, Harvey, and Maria have been the most powerful storms we have seen in decades.
These storms have caused numerous deaths and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and the rest of the Caribbean, who have lost so much.
Now it’s time to start picking up the pieces. I have been down in Florida surveying the damage and hearing from local communities and I can tell you, we have a long recovery ahead of us.
But I am encouraged.
The strength and resilience of the Floridians I have met with never ceases to amaze me. I have seen neighbors and communities coming together to help each other while less affected areas in Florida are giving to those in dire need.
I am fully committed to doing everything that I can to aid my fellow Floridians and all others who have lost life and property in these storms.
This is why this hearing today is so important. The four agencies represented here play an integral role in protecting life and property around this country.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, for example, plays a key role in ensuring the safety of consumer products. And one product that is often in high demand after hurricanes and severe storms is portable generators. They can be a very important source of emergency power after storms. But when used incorrectly, they can also be deadly.
For over ten years, I have been pushing the CPSC to enact a robust safety standard to either reduce the amount of carbon monoxide emitted by portable generators or to cause generators to automatically shut off when carbon monoxide concentrations in the area where they are being used reach toxic levels.
I was heartened when the CPSC voted four to one last year to publish a draft standard to significantly reduce the amount of deadly carbon monoxide these machines emit.
Sadly, it appears that this rule is being held up because of behind-the-scenes industry lobbying at both the CPSC and the EPA.
And this delay, quite frankly, is deadly.
As of last Friday, there have been at least eleven deaths and numerous injuries in Florida related to carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators used in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
And I suspect we will see more in the coming weeks in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other Caribbean countries decimated by Hurricane Maria.
Ms. Buerkle, while I appreciate your generator safety outreach messages prior to Hurricane Irma, I am deeply disappointed in your efforts to delay this potentially lifesaving rule.
Admiral Gallaudet, for years, I have been working to make sure that NOAA has reliable tools to forecast hurricanes and to better understand and predict weather patterns.
Extreme events in 2017 alone include unprecedented wildfires and back-to-back-to-back record Atlantic hurricanes and only underscore the growing impact of climate change.
Global temperatures are rising— and so are the seas. 2016 and 2017 have had the two highest global temperatures ever recorded since we began measuring in 1880.
Oceans are warming and fueling the dizzyingly fast intensification of hurricanes we saw in Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria.
We need leaders at NOAA who understand the importance of studying climate change, and I hope you, Admiral Gallaudet, will show the same diligence at NOAA in studying and preparing for climate change that you displayed in your role of oceanographer of the Navy.
Mr. Elliott, I want to welcome you to the committee as a fellow Floridian. As you know, the safe and reliable transportation of hazardous materials across the country and into densely populated regions is critical.
I look forward to hearing from you about the work you did overseeing the safety of transporting hazardous materials within CSX, which is based in our home state of Florida.
And Dr. Copan, I’ve spent the last two weeks crisscrossing Florida after Hurricane Irma devastated many parts of the state. Luckily, the devastation wasn’t as bad as feared in some areas because of the improved building codes put in place after Hurricane Andrew.
In fact, the devastation to Florida’s infrastructure after hurricanes is one of the reasons I authored the original legislation creating the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act. Under that program, NIST leads the federal investigations after a hurricane. Those investigations and research is used to improve building codes – so that communities are more resilient and ready for the next storm.
All of the agencies represented today base their work on one thing—scientific data. I look forward to hearing from each of you today on how we can protect scientific integrity and the many other issues I mentioned.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Howard R Elliott
Dr. Walter G. Copan
Rear Admiral (Ret.) Tim Gallaudet
The Honorable Ann Marie Buerkle