Thanks in large part to bipartisan cooperation across Virginia's Congressional delegation, the Drywall Safety Act of 2012 is headed to the President's desk to become law. The legislation sets chemical standards for domestic and imported drywall; establishes remediation guidelines for disposal of all drywall; and expresses a sense of Congress that China must be held accountable for the damage this product has already caused in our community and across America.
The original legislation, H.R. 4212, was introduced by Representative Scott Rigell (VA-2) and passed the House of Representatives unanimously this summer. In December, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, a longtime advocate for Chinese drywall victims, was instrumental in moving the legislation unanimously through the Senate with an amendment. Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the measure on a strong bipartisan vote of 378-37 and sent the final bill to the President's desk.
"This is a bill about protecting American families -- their health and financial well-being. Too many of our friends and neighbors have suffered because of the effects of Chinese drywall in their homes, and this bill ensures that preventative standards are in place so no American family is faced with the hardship and heartache from contaminated drywall ever again," said Rigell, co-chair of the bipartisan Contaminated Drywall Caucus which has worked on legislation to address this issue since the beginning of the 112th Congress. "Having worked on this issue since the day I took office, I am pleased that this legislation is headed to the President's desk. But China must also be held accountable for the devastation this product has already caused, and we will continue to fight for these victims as well."
"Hundreds of Virginia homeowners have been put through hell after building or repairing their homes with toxic drywall. Our bipartisan legislation should ensure that, in the future, more Virginians will not have to go through similar nightmares," said Senator Warner. "This legislation helps make sure that unsafe drywall won't be sold in the future, and that the manufacturers of tainted drywall will be held accountable."
Senator Warner and staff have worked closely for nearly three years with about 100 affected Virginia families. The Senator has worked with mortgage lenders, insurance companies, and the IRS to provide some short-term financial relief for affected families. In October 2009, Senator Warner accompanied Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Inez Tenenbaum to Hampton Roads to speak with families and tour several homes affected by drywall issues.
The full Hampton Roads House delegation and all members of the Contaminated Drywall Caucus were united in helping to achieve this legislative victory to protect Americans from the devastating effects of toxic drywall. Representatives Randy Forbes, Rob Wittman, and Bobby Scott were critical in helping Rigell move the bill through the House.
Representative J. Randy Forbes (VA-4) said, "Thousands of American homeowners have suffered enormous hardship as a result of hazardous tainted drywall imported from China. This legislation is an important step forward in ensuring that future homeowners will be protected from the financial and emotional burden of having toxic drywall in their homes. I also applaud Congress in sending a clear message to Chinese manufacturers that restitution must be paid to the American customers who suffered due to their defective and unsafe product."
"In my visits with various families in the Hampton Roads area who have been affected by toxic Chinese drywall, I've witnessed firsthand the devastating impact it has had on both their health and their financial stability," said Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-1). "The passage of the Drywall Safety Act is an important step toward requiring accountability from Chinese manufacturers and preventing future suffering by American families."
"I am pleased this important legislation will soon reach the President's desk," said Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-3). "Toxic Chinese drywall has caused serious health complications as well as financial hardship for too many Hampton Roads families. This legislation will pave the way for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to adopt standards on sulfur content, subject drywall to stricter labeling requirements, and limit further damage from reuse or recycling. These are important preventative measures, but we still have more work to do to hold foreign manufacturers accountable and give the victims the relief they deserve. I commend Congressman Rigell for his leadership on this issue."
Once signed into law, the bill will:
* Express a Sense of Congress that the Chinese manufacturers need to make restitution to the victims.
* Institute a labeling requirement so that defective drywall can be traced to the manufacturer.
* Set chemical standards to limit the amount of sulfur that can be present in domestic and imported drywall, allowing the Consumer Product Safety Commission two years to promulgate a rule pertaining to sulfur content.
* Require Consumer Product Safety Commission to update their remediation guidelines to prevent contaminated drywall from being reused or recycled.
Background on contaminated drywall:
* Contaminated Chinese-manufactured drywall was imported and used in home construction from approximately 2001-2009. Some of that material was used in Hampton Roads construction.
* Scientific studies have shown this drywall to cause a corrosive environment for fire alarm systems, electrical distribution systems, gas piping, and refrigeration coils.
* The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received reports of contaminated Chinese drywall in more than 3,991 homes in 43 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico.
* The Chinese manufacturers, some of which are state-owned, have refused to submit to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.
* Reports from homeowners indicate that some contaminated drywall may be entering the recycling stream for use in new home construction or renovation.