Letter to House Judiciary Committee Regarding Domestic Fuels Protection Act of 2012   

May 18, 2012

Representative Lamar Smith
Chairman
House Judiciary Committee
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

 

Representative John Conyers Jr.
Ranking Member
House Judiciary Committee
2426 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Conyers:

On behalf of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), we are writing to express our concerns with H.R. 4345, the “Domestic Fuels Protection Act of 2012,” and we urge the Committee to fully examine the state impact of this proposed legislation on existing state product liability and consumer protection laws.

H.R. 4345 unnecessarily infringes on the common law police power of the states under which they protect the health, safety and welfare of their constituents. Specifically, Section 5 of the legislation would bar both future and existing claims in state court for state law violations relating to any fuel or fuel additives. This would preempt state product liability and consumer protection laws which are traditional and well-developed area of state authority. This legislative language does not take into account decades of thoughtful state policies and judicial decisions reached in this substantive area of the law.

H.R. 4345 would also undermine the existing state-federal partnership in environmental protection by overriding state authority, and preempting state regulatory laws and state common law that impose stricter requirements and additional liability for leaking underground storage tanks. Amendments to the Solid Waste Disposal Act included in the legislation would grant broad authority to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop criteria that storage tanks or dispensing equipment must meet to be deemed “compatible” with any fuel or fuel additive that is authorized and registered for use in a motor vehicle. As a result H.R. 4345 would prohibit states from enacting or enforcing more stringent requirements for such equipment which undermines decisions state policymakers have made regarding safety issues surrounding this equipment. 

We respectfully urge you and all members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee to conduct a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the state impact of H.R. 4345 before proceeding further on this bill. NCSL would be happy to work with the committee on any efforts to address these concerns in future drafts of the legislation. Please feel free to contact NCSL staff Susan Parnas Frederick (susan.frederick@ncsl.org) or Tamra Spielvogel (tamra.spielvogel@ncsl.org) for more information.

Sincerely,

Senator Joni Cutler, South Dakota
Co-Chair, NCSL Committee on Law and Criminal Justice

Representative Tommy Reynolds, Mississippi
Co-Chair, NCSLCommittee on Law and Criminal Justice       

Senator Beverly Gard, Indiana
Co-Chair, NCSL Environment Standing Committee

Representative Jeff Morris, Washington
Co-Chair, NCSL Environment Standing Committee