Nelson and Carper to EPA, CPSC Heads: Stop Trying to Derail Life-Saving Portable Generator Safety Rule

September 27, 2017

WASHINGTON – The ranking Democrats on the Senate’s Commerce and Environment and Public Works Committees – Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) – today urged the nation’s top environmental and consumer protection officials to stop attempts to derail a key generator safety rule.

The lawmakers’ demand comes in the wake of at least 12 Hurricane Irma-related deaths caused by accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from portable generators.   

In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA) Scott Pruitt and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairwoman Anne Marie Buerkle, the lawmakers pressed the agency heads to explain a previously unreported exchange of letters that sought to undermine the CPSC’s authority to regulate generator safety.  The senators also called for the release of documents related to the regulation of portable generators obtained or sent by the agencies’ political appointees.

“Your joint assertion that the commission may lack the authority to address this risk - if heeded by the agency - would likely result in a regulatory black hole that may well yield no added protections but could instead lead to additional avoidable deaths and injuries,” the senators wrote.  “The CPSC clearly has the statutory authority to regulate to ‘prevent or reduce an unreasonable risk of injury associated’ with any aspect of a consumer product, including portable generators.”

Last November, the CPSC, by a 4-to-1 vote, issued a proposed rule that would require portable generator manufacturers to adopt existing technology that would reduce CO emissions in many models by up to 90 percent.  The rule would substantially reduce the risk of CO poisoning and give occupants of a dwelling with hazardous levels of the deadly and odorless gas more time to escape.  The commission has yet to render its final approval for the new generator standards.

In a May 10 letter to CPSC Chairwoman Buerkle, Administrator Pruitt intervened in the matter by asserting that it was the EPA, not the commission, that had the authority to regulate portable generators under the Clean Air Act.   In an August response to Pruitt, Buerkle agreed and gave her backing to a voluntary generator standard being developed by the industry, while signaling her desire for the commission to avoid regulating on the issue.