Congressional Hearings on Lead Ban Fix

April 30, 2010
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

Congress heard from the motorcycle industry this Thursday as it considers legislative action to fix the OHV lead ban. Industry representatives, including the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), testified at a hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce regarding the proposed legislative bill – the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act (CPSEA).
Motorcycle Industry Council

Drafted by Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), the CPSEA aims to rectify the unintended consequences of the earlier Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) – one being the ban on youth OHV due to their lead content. Currently operating under the limbo of temporary enforcement stays, the industry has long awaited a change to the situation.

The industry position, including that of the MIC and AMA, has been that the existing legislative action already allows for exemption. The current legislative action is required, however, due to the strict interpretation of the CPSIA by the Consumer Product Safety Commission – the regulatory agency tasked with enforcement of the law. Congress cut off funding to enforce provisions of the CPSIA in an earlier appropriations bill, and the CPSC remained adamant that new legislation is required – thus the CPSEA.

The Thursday hearing, which took place before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, heard testimony from the leaders of concerned industries. One of those weighing in on the side of the OHV industry was MIC General Counsel, Paul Vitrano, who outlined the arguments for permanent exemption of the lead ban for OHVs.

“Our industry has already submitted clear evidence to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that we believe is sufficient to obtain exceptions for youth ATVs and motorcycles under Section 2 of the proposed bill. We strongly urge the Committee to provide as much clarity as possible in developing a legislative solution so that CPSC will have no doubt that Congress intends to ensure the continued availability of youth vehicles, and will move accordingly to end the ban.”

The entire lead ban arose from confusion regarding the initial CPSIA bill, with the CPSC insisting it can’t make any exemptions under the current legislation. Given the huge implications of the muddled language and its interpretation, Vitrano asked that the legislative committee be explicit in its language regarding the CPSEA.

“We have encouraged the Committee to include statutory language to provide CPSC with explicit guidance,” said Vitrano. “In the absence of such language, however, it is critical that there be report language accompanying the bill that defines the terms ‘practicable’ and ‘no measurable adverse effect’ in Section 2.”

One of the major arguments challenging the supposed safety benefits of the CPSC lead ban is that with purpose-built youth OHV outlawed, children would be forced onto larger, more dangerous, adult OHVs. So, in practical terms, the lead ban could be more lethal for those it’s intended to protect – a fact acknowledged by even the CPSC, and one of the main reasons why the agency issued its enforcement stays. Vitrano reinforced the point at the hearing, stating:

“These smaller, lighter, speed restricted models were specifically designed for youth riders with the goal of keeping them off of larger, faster adult-size units. The CPSC has acknowledged that the ban on these youth models creates a compelling safety issue because it likely will result in younger children riding larger and faster adult-size ATVs.”

Ed Moreland, the AMA’s Vice President for government relations express cautious optimism after the hearing, saying via press release: “We are encouraged that Congress seems to be taking the concerns of AMA members and the motorcycling community seriously. We are seeking answers to questions that we raised earlier in the week about language in the bill, but we remain cautiously optimistic that our concerns will be addressed.”

The CPSEA bill must pass through committee vote (WHEN?), where it will then move toward consideration on the congressional floor.

For more information and full testimony transcripts visit the House Committee on Energy and Commerce website 

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