DEC. 13, 2007 - ROLLER COASTER LOOPHOLE SURVIVES COMMITTEE DEBATE, MARKEY SECURES HEARING FOR ISSUE

Former Amusement Park Industry Executive Supports Markey Effort to Close Safety Loophole


WASHINGTON, D.C. – This afternoon, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted against closing a dangerous safety loophole that places fixed-site amusement park rides outside the jurisdiction of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA) has introduced legislation every Congress since 1999 to restore CPSC’s authority over fixed-site rides and offered an amendment to that effect today during committee consideration of H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act. Though his amendment failed by a vote of 10 in favor and 25 opposed, Rep. Markey secured a promise for the first-ever congressional hearing devoted to this subject.

“While I am disappointed by today’s vote, I am pleased that my colleagues have realized this issue warrants the attention of a congressional hearing. For too long, Congress has ignored the roller coaster loophole, preventing the CPSC from investigating accidents on thrill rides that hurtle children at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour.

“The CPSC lacks the authority to require park operators to share information about an accident with operators of the same ride in other states. This makes no sense whatsoever,” said Rep. Markey.

While the amusement park industry has fought hard against closing this loophole, yesterday Rep. Markey released a letter from a former senior executive in the amusement park industry who expressed support for Rep. Markey’s efforts to close the loophole.

Jim Prager, a former industry senior executive and board member of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), the trade association of the amusement park ride industry, was closely involved in the successful efforts to exempt fixed-site amusement rides from CPSC jurisdiction in 1981 and again in 1984. In his letter he stated that:

“Insurance programs mandated by states or maintained by the operating amusement park companies are often touted as assuring ride safety but many of these programs have gaping holes rendering the programs essentially meaningless. Some state licensing or inspection programs were created to serve not the public, but the industry, providing an illusory aura of safety.”

“The cost-cutting of the last 25 years has reduced the industry capacity for safety,” Mr. Prager added. “I now believe that I was wrong 25 years ago and that the industry should be regulated.”

“As a former industry executive involved in the successful effort to exempt fixed-site rides from CPSC authority in 1981 and again in 1984, Mr. Prager’s comments should be a clarion call to raise awareness about the need to close this dangerous loophole now. Until now, the industry line has been that federal oversight is not needed, but as Mr. Prager observes, self-regulation and a patchwork of state regulations are not enough to prevent tragic accidents from occurring,” Rep. Markey said.

The nation’s leading safety agency, the CPSC, oversees the safety of carnival (“mobile”) rides, but is prohibited from overseeing the safety of park (“fixed-site”) rides. Rep. Markey is seeking to ensure that the CPSC has the authority to investigate accidents, develop and enforce plans to correct defects and act as a national clearinghouse for accident and defect data.

Rep. Markey’s efforts have been endorsed by Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, Saferparks.org, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Kids in Danger.

Mr. Prager’s letter can be found HERE

Opening Statement of Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
Energy and Commerce Committee
Full Committee Markup of H.R. 4040, CPSC Modernization Act

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

‘Twas two weeks before Christmas, when all through the house
Mothers and fathers were starting to grouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
With hopes that safe products would soon be stuffed there

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Wishing for toys that did not contain lead.

And Ma had just disappointed the tots
When she had to throw out their new Aquadots

Then out at the CPSC there arose such a clatter,
The House and the Senate asked what was the matter.

We had several hearings with the Chairman, Nancy Nord
Her answers left us, frankly, quite floored.

She didn’t want money, she didn’t need staff
Her protestations, in short, made us laugh

Then, what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But a CPSC bill for Congress to clear

This bill has good points, on that we agree
It adds needed money and new F.T.E’s

It makes sure that kids’ toys will not contain lead
It helps to ensure they are tested instead

Test Barbie! Diego! And poisonous Thomas!
Mattel, Hasbro and Disney! You all must now promise

To test your new products! Be sure to comply!
Get toys off store shelves when things go awry!

This morning we meet as the lobbyists try
To convince all the Members NOT to vote “aye”

They say NO to amendments to be sure nationwide
All children are safe on amusement park rides

They fight for the industry’s lawsuits in court
To prevent the release of toy safety reports

As for plans to require that all dangers be known
The lobbyists all shake their heads and they groan.

And others who try to mandate recalls
Their efforts may not be successful at all

Today as we work on this new safety bill
I hope that we all can agree that we will -

Say AYE to amendments that make the bill stronger
So that toys that are toxic can’t be sold any longer

Let’s welcome rides that are scary and fast
But let CPSC in to check them at last

Let’s roll up our sleeves, and clean up store shelves
So families can focus on reindeer and elves.

And to these families we’ll say once we finish this fight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 13, 2007

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, 202.225.2836