Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., have called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to allow the public to comment on the agency's controversial new drywall remediation protocol.
"These protocols are an important piece of the solution for the thousands of homeowners across the country, especially in our home states of Florida and Virginia, suffering through the nightmare of problem drywall," the senators said in a letter to the commission on Wednesday. "The decisions homeowners make in response to these protocols will have a bearing on the future value and insurability of their homes. With such economically-significant decisions in the balance, it is critical that your agencies get this decision right for homeowners."
As ProPublica and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported last week, the guidelines shocked and confused people whose homes were built with tainted drywall, because they reverse the CPSC's earlier recommendation that all wiring inside the affected homes be removed. The new guidelines also conflict with those issued last year by U.S. District Court Judge Eldon E. Fallon as part of the drywall litigation he is presiding over in federal court in New Orleans.
Sulfur gas from the drywall has lead to the corrosion of copper wiring, causing air conditioners, refrigerators and other electronics to break down. A database compiled by ProPublica and the Herald-Tribune shows that nearly 7,000 homeowners have filed lawsuits or asked for property tax adjustments, saying they have been affected by contaminated drywall.
Richard Kampf, a homeowner in Lee County and a former chief of staff for the Environmental Protection Agency in Philadelphia, has advocated furiously for an opportunity to voice his concerns about the new protocol. He spoke with Sen. Nelson's staff earlier this week about his belief that the CPSC had violated federal rules by releasing its protocol without public comment.
"I want them to understand the confusion that homeowners are going through when we get three or four different protocols," Kampf said Wednesday. "From day one, I've said there has to be clear and consistent guidelines."
The senators' letter urges the CPSC and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to seek public comment on the protocol and to arrange a public meeting with homeowners to discuss it.
The CPSC did not immediately return phone calls for comment on this story.