Acting Chair Ann Marie Buerkle
Acting Chair Ann Marie Buerkle

This past Wednesday, in her first public remarks as Acting Chair of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Ann Marie Buerkle announced her top three priorities. As our readers know from our previous post, on February 9, then Commissioner Buerkle became Acting Chair of the CPSC after Commissioner Elliot Kaye stepped down as Chairman. Speaking to the annual conference of the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO), Acting Chair Buerkle announced that her top three priorities include: (1) collaborating with all product safety stakeholders; (2) taking a balanced and reasonable approach to regulation; and (3) expanding product safety education and awareness for consumers.

The overarching theme of Chairman Buerkle’s remarks could not have been more clear: the core mission of product safety does not change with respect to who is in the White House—the focus needs to remain on safety, data, and science, and, to further that mission, all product safety stakeholders should remove their stereotypes of different groups within the community and work collaboratively and creatively to further a common goal.

To that end, Chairman Buerkle stated that she will continue to approach product safety as she has done since taking her seat on the Commission in 2013 in order to further the agency’s mission—she will strive for good governance, build relationships across the safety community, take advantage of available data and science, and rely upon the expertise available inside and outside of the Commission.

Acting Chair Buerkle’s top three priorities include:

  1. Collaboration. Acting Chair Buerkle stated that she would be a “staunch advocate” for collaboration for “all” product safety stakeholders—meaning industry and consumer advocates alike. Some have criticized prior CPSC administrations for not being sensitive enough to the concerns of industry when it comes to the agency’s approach to and/or initiatives concerning voluntary recalls, civil penalties, and confidentiality rules, for example.
  2. Regulation. Next, Acting Chair Buerkle discussed the need for a “balanced and reasonable approach” to product safety regulation. Noting that the American people sent a clear message to Washington, D.C. to upend the status quo, Buerkle stated that she intended to follow the “spirit” of President Trump’s Executive Orders, which mandate a temporary regulatory freeze on executive agencies (but not independent agencies like the CPSC) and a “two out, one in” rule for new regulations. Buerkle noted that a temporary regulatory freeze is not unusual in order to assess current regulatory schemes and that the “two out, one in” rule is something that good regulators should be doing regularly as part of their ordinary job—looking at the effects of regulation on regulated communities and taking action where appropriate to lessen burden.
  3. Education and Awareness. Finally, like most incoming CPSC chairs, Acting Chair Buerkle stated that she would continue to promote product safety education and awareness, including knowledge of the agency, to consumers.

In her remarks, Acting Chair Buerkle also emphasized the need for openness and transparency and the importance of a smooth transition from one administration to the next. Notably, she has asked the Commission’s current Executive Director (Patricia Adkins), Communications Director (Scott Wolfson), General Counsel (Mary Boyle), and Director of Legislative Affairs (Julia Richardson) to remain in their current roles under her leadership.

Acting Chair Buerkle’s comments were well received by the over 700 attendees at ICPHSO’s annual symposium. While she remains in the unique (and unprecedented) position of being a “minority Chair,” meaning she does not currently command a 3-2 voting majority as explained by us here, we expect Acting Chair Buerkle to set a new tone at the Commission that reflects some aspects of the post-election dynamic and to leave an imprint on how the Commission approaches the issues discussed above, as well as many others.