Tags: fireworks | obama | regulation

Fireworks Industry Bemoans Tough Obama Regulations

By    |   Saturday, 04 Jul 2015 12:50 PM

Fireworks industry leaders say the Obama administration has given their business huge headaches with its over-regulation.

"I've been working with the industry for a very long time, 26 years, [and] I have never seen as many rulemaking initiatives as I have with this administration," American Pyrotechnics Association executive director Julie Heckman told Politico. "It has just been completely insane."

Part of the problem, Heckman said, is that the industry has to deal with too many federal agencies' rules, including the including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) , the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and multiple divisions of the Department of Transportation.

"It's really challenging," said Heckman. "It would be great if we could have one agency that took care of everything, and I'm sure there are other industries that are also feeling that pain, but it has been very significant.

The industry, though, is still thriving, with sales of both powerful and low-grade pyrotechnics projected to top $1 billion this year. Only three states, Delaware, Massachusetts and New Jersey, still have complete bans.

New York just eased its regulations this year, after more than a decade of tough restrictions, the Democrat & Chronicle of  Rochester reports.

But there is still concern about the safety issues behind the firecrackers, bottle rockets and other explosives people are watching and setting off in their own back yards. According to CPSC data released last Friday, there were 11 fatalities and 10,000 injuries reported from fireworks last year. That number is down from the year before, but CPSC Communications Director Scott Wolfson has warned that "that's an unacceptable number."

Heckman told Politico that the laws are becoming more relaxed nationwide because of the lack of enforcement.

"People are going to celebrate on the Fourth of July with fireworks, and typically they will cross state lines, county lines," she said. "They'll bring their fireworks back to their home where it might not be legal. And so, with enforcement, as well as with looking at the amount of revenue generated from, you know, selling fireworks, states are saying, 'Hey, we don't want to lose that revenue. We'd like to gain it in our state.'"

This could mean special taxes, she said, with the revenues to support fireworks going to training for rescue workers.

The injury statistics, Heckman said, are actually "very positive," as the overall use of backyard fireworks has increased over the last 10 years.

"I'm not aware of one other consumer product on the market today where the usage has risen so dramatically, yet the injuries have gone down," she said.

As about 75 percent of the fireworks shot off in the United States come from China, Heckman said that the industry is committed to work with quality standards.

The American Fireworks Standards Laboratory (AFSL), a third-party certification organization, tests the product in China to be sure they meet CPSC regulations.

"It exceeds them, because AFSL standards go a step beyond what the federal government mandates," she claimed.

The industry is backing legislation called the PORTS Act, being sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., which will give governors more power to intervene in labor disputes such as one that recently ended on the West Coast, which caused concerns that fireworks would not be able to come in from China on time for the Independence Day weekend.

However, Heckman said the biggest issue the industry is backing is reauthorization of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, which will help fix issues with explosives approvals and special permits.

But the fireworks industry is actually "very tiny" and does not have a big budget for lobbying for such bills.

"We have a great commodity, we have a great industry record to promote, and I think when we do go to Capitol Hill for support, members of Congress listen to us," she said. "I mean, we're small — [we] represent small family businesses who are trying to do their very best to survive. We want the industry to be regulated, we just want common sense regulations."

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Fireworks industry leaders say the Obama administration has given their business huge headaches with its over-regulation.
fireworks, obama, regulation
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2015-50-04
Saturday, 04 Jul 2015 12:50 PM
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