Possible New CPSC Head Said to Have Industry TiesJan 29, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Could the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) soon be headed by an industry crony? Although no official announcement has been made, the White House is said to be reviewing candidates to replace acting CPSC chairman, Nancy A. Nord. The three-member commission has been without an appointed leader since former chairman Harold Stratton stepped down in 2006. Word is that the top choice is Gail Charnley, a scientist who has testified and written on behalf of the energy, pesticide, and tobacco industries. Many consumer advocates fear his industry ties make him a poor choice for CPSC commissioner.
The CPSC, the nation’s chief product-safety regulator, has been accused of not protecting consumers, prompting some Democrats in Congress demanded Nord resign. Many where incensed at Nord for opposing provisions of a bill to allow CPSC more authority to disclose information about product hazards and raise the maximum penalty for manufacturers failing to report problems.
The Bush Administration's last nominee to head the CPSC was another industry insider. Michael Baroody was a longtime lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which represents companies with business before the CPSC. Senate Democrats and consumer groups criticized Baroody’s ties to NAM and the $150,000 severance payment he was to receive from them.
The CPSC vacancy has impacted its ability to operate efficiently in initiating mandatory recalls and approving safety regulations, which require a quorum of three. The three-member agency has been able to legally operate with two members; however, the quorum’s six-month extension is scheduled to end February 3rd.
Charnley has a doctorate in toxicology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology; operates the consulting firm, HealthRisk Strategies; and served on a variety of high-level government advisory panels, including the National Academy of Sciences committees.
But Charnley has many industry ties, and environmental advocates are not happy. In 2006, Charnley wrote an op-ed piece for Americans for Balanced Energy Choices—a nonprofit group funded by utilities, railroads, and mining companies—opposing stronger restrictions on power-plant emissions. In 2004, Charnley and a colleague wrote a letter to Environmental Health Perspectives regarding a study conducted on human testing of pesticides without disclosing it had been partly funded by pesticide makers. Charnley also consulted for the tobacco industry from the early 1990s through 2001. "She's not thought of as a consumer advocate per se but as someone hired by industry to represent their point of view," said Lynn Goldman, a former assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton.
Other candidates are Jacqueline Glassman and John Kupsch. Glassman, a former deputy administrator at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is a partner at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson and served as an in-house attorney for Chrysler where she oversaw work on side-impact. Kupsch, vice president of product safety for Amscan, a designer, manufacturer, and distributor of party goods and owner of the Party City chain, is a former technical director of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.
Nominees must go through a Senate confirmation and, if approved, will likely have to step down if Democrats win the White House.