House and Senate conferees this week will begin ironing out the final details of emergency interim legislation to establish safety standards in the controversial home insulation industry.
Last week the House joined the Senate in passing a bill that would amend the Consumer product Safety Act to eliminate time consuming statutes that had delayed Consumer Product Safety Commission action toward developing sagety standards for cellulose insulation. The proposed amendment goes to conferemce to work out slight differences between the House and Senate versions.
Basically, the bill orders the commission to implement a safety standard originally drawn up by the General Services Administration until a better standard can be developed. The House version gives the product safety commission 45 days to make th GSA standard law, while the Senate allwos 120 days.
Another basic change made in the bill by the House calls for the Department of Energy to study the insulation industry instead of the CPSC, which has severe staff limitations.
The impetus for the bill came from reports that improperly treated cellulose insulation had cought fire in some houses. Cellulose insulation is ground up paper or wood that has been treated chemically with a flame-retardant to keep it from burning.
But, according to CPSC and congressional studies, there has been a meteoric rise in the demand for home insulation. In many states, this demand was the result of tax incentives offered homeowners who take such energy-saving steps as adding insulation.
This, in turn, has given rise to several fly-by-night manufacturers who are selling improperly treated cellulose insulation, the reports said. More popular forms of insulation, such as fiber glass, have become virtually unavailable because of shortages of raw materials and manufacturing capacity.
Blaming administrative limitations in the law for lengthly delays, the Consumer Product Safety Commission spent well over a year working on possible safety standards, with no tangible results - prompting Congress to move on its own.
Last month, the commission gave up efforts to develop a standard within its own regulations, and decided instead to join foeces with Congress to push for passage of the amendment that would allow quicker action.
The passage of that amendemant by the House earlier this week was hailed as "a monumental service to the American Consumer planning on home insulation," by Charles D. Mesign, president of the International Cellulose Insulation Manufactruers. "We can now see and end to the fly-by-night manufacturer whose product has no safety or quality control standards."
Sen. Wendall Ford (D-Ky.), who pushed the ligislation through the Senate, agrees with Mesign. "I was never worried about the established manufacturers," Ford said. "I'm concerned about the 670 new operations that have appeared in the last 18-24 months with (newspaper) grinders on the back of their trucks."
Mesign gave a "vote of thanks" to Rep. Bob Eckardt (D-Texas) and Rep. John Moss (D-Calif.)whose committee staffs developed much of the bacj ground material used to bolster the need for legislation, and Rep Toby Moffet (D-Conn.), who originally sponsored the House version of the bill.
Gregory Fitzferald, vice proseident of the industry group, said a strong cellulose insulation standard is needed now that would help the nation conserve "massive amounts of energy every day and night."