Construction Industry News

Nelson and Carper to EPA, CPSC Heads: Stop Trying to Derail Life-Saving Portable Generator Safety Rule

WASHINGTON – The ranking Democrats on the Senate’s Commerce and Environment and Public Works Committees – Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) – today urged the nation’s top environmental and consumer protection officials to stop attempts to derail a key generator safety rule.

The lawmakers’ demand comes in the wake of at least 12 Hurricane Irma-related deaths caused by accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from portable generators.   

In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA) Scott Pruitt and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairwoman Anne Marie Buerkle, the lawmakers pressed the agency heads to explain a previously unreported exchange of letters that sought to undermine the CPSC’s authority to regulate generator safety.  The senators also called for the release of documents related to the regulation of portable generators obtained or sent by the agencies’ political appointees.

“Your joint assertion that the commission may lack the authority to address this risk - if heeded by the agency - would likely result in a regulatory black hole that may well yield no added protections but could instead lead to additional avoidable deaths and injuries,” the senators wrote.  “The CPSC clearly has the statutory authority to regulate to ‘prevent or reduce an unreasonable risk of injury associated’ with any aspect of a consumer product, including portable generators.”

Last November, the CPSC, by a 4-to-1 vote, issued a proposed rule that would require portable generator manufacturers to adopt existing technology that would reduce CO emissions in many models by up to 90 percent.  The rule would substantially reduce the risk of CO poisoning and give occupants of a dwelling with hazardous levels of the deadly and odorless gas more time to escape.  The commission has yet to render its final approval for the new generator standards.

In a May 10 letter to CPSC Chairwoman Buerkle, Administrator Pruitt intervened in the matter by asserting that it was the EPA, not the commission, that had the authority to regulate portable generators under the Clean Air Act.   In an August response to Pruitt, Buerkle agreed and gave her backing to a voluntary generator standard being developed by the industry, while signaling her desire for the commission to avoid regulating on the issue.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Mr. Chairman, over the past few weeks we have seen the devastation hurricanes can cause. Irma, Harvey, and Maria have been the most powerful storms we have seen in decades.

These storms have caused numerous deaths and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and the rest of the Caribbean, who have lost so much.

Now it’s time to start picking up the pieces. I have been down in Florida surveying the damage and hearing from local communities and I can tell you, we have a long recovery ahead of us.

But I am encouraged.

The strength and resilience of the Floridians I have met with never ceases to amaze me. I have seen neighbors and communities coming together to help each other while less affected areas in Florida are giving to those in dire need.

I am fully committed to doing everything that I can to aid my fellow Floridians and all others who have lost life and property in these storms.

This is why this hearing today is so important. The four agencies represented here play an integral role in protecting life and property around this country.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, for example, plays a key role in ensuring the safety of consumer products.  And one product that is often in high demand after hurricanes and severe storms is portable generators.  They can be a very important source of emergency power after storms.  But when used incorrectly, they can also be deadly.

For over ten years, I have been pushing the CPSC to enact a robust safety standard to either reduce the amount of carbon monoxide emitted by portable generators or to cause generators to automatically shut off when carbon monoxide concentrations in the area where they are being used reach toxic levels.

I was heartened when the CPSC voted four to one last year to publish a draft standard to significantly reduce the amount of deadly carbon monoxide these machines emit.

Sadly, it appears that this rule is being held up because of behind-the-scenes industry lobbying at both the CPSC and the EPA.

And this delay, quite frankly, is deadly.

As of last Friday, there have been at least eleven deaths and numerous injuries in Florida related to carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators used in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

And I suspect we will see more in the coming weeks in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other Caribbean countries decimated by Hurricane Maria.

Ms. Buerkle, while I appreciate your generator safety outreach messages prior to Hurricane Irma, I am deeply disappointed in your efforts to delay this potentially lifesaving rule.

Admiral Gallaudet, for years, I have been working to make sure that NOAA has reliable tools to forecast hurricanes and to better understand and predict weather patterns. 

Extreme events in 2017 alone include unprecedented wildfires and back-to-back-to-back record Atlantic hurricanes and only underscore the growing impact of climate change.

Global temperatures are rising— and so are the seas. 2016 and 2017 have had the two highest global temperatures ever recorded since we began measuring in 1880.

Oceans are warming and fueling the dizzyingly fast intensification of hurricanes we saw in Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria. 

We need leaders at NOAA who understand the importance of studying climate change, and I hope you, Admiral Gallaudet, will show the same diligence at NOAA in studying and preparing for climate change that you displayed in your role of oceanographer of the Navy.

Mr. Elliott, I want to welcome you to the committee as a fellow Floridian. As you know, the safe and reliable transportation of hazardous materials across the country and into densely populated regions is critical. 

I look forward to hearing from you about the work you did overseeing the safety of transporting hazardous materials within CSX, which is based in our home state of Florida.

And Dr. Copan, I’ve spent the last two weeks crisscrossing Florida after Hurricane Irma devastated many parts of the state. Luckily, the devastation wasn’t as bad as feared in some areas because of the improved building codes put in place after Hurricane Andrew.

In fact, the devastation to Florida’s infrastructure after hurricanes is one of the reasons I authored the original legislation creating the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act. Under that program, NIST leads the federal investigations after a hurricane. Those investigations and research is used to improve building codes – so that communities are more resilient and ready for the next storm.  

All of the agencies represented today base their work on one thing—scientific data. I look forward to hearing from each of you today on how we can protect scientific integrity and the many other issues I mentioned.

Thank you.

Nomination Hearing

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a nominations hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, for four presidential nominees subject to Senate confirmation.

Witnesses:

-  The Honorable Ann Marie Buerkle, of New York, to be Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
-  Rear Admiral (Ret.) Timothy Gallaudet, of California, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
-  Mr. Howard R. Elliott, of Indiana, to be Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Department of Transportation
-  Dr. Walter G. Copan, of Colorado, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
10:00 a.m.
Full Committee

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

FTC Stakeholder Perspecitves: Reform Proposals to Improve Fairness, Innovation, and Consumer Welfare

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, will convene a hearing titled “FTC Stakeholder Perspecitves: Reform Proposals to Improve Fairness, Innovation, and Consumer Welfare” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 26, 2017. The subcommittee will explore recommendations by stakeholders and former Commission officials for improving the FTC’s handling of consumer protection cases and general process reforms.

Witnesses:

-  Mr. William MacLeod, Partner, Kelley Drye
-  Ms. Lydia Parnes, Partner, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
-  Ms. Jessica Rich, Vice President, Policy and Modernization, Consumers Union
-  Mr. Berin Szoka, President, TechFreedom

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

<p>Good afternoon, and welcome to

Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s hearing on “FTC Stakeholder Perspectives: Reform Proposals to Improve Fairness, Innovation, and Consumer Welfare.” 

Last September, the full Committee heard testimony from the FTC’s three sitting commissioners at the time: Chairman Ramirez, Commissioner Ohlhausen and Commissioner McSweeny. We had planned to convene a Subcommittee hearing on the same day, but had to cancel it due to scheduling conflicts. The cancelled hearing would have consisted of a panel of stakeholders offering their own perspectives about the Commission. 

Today we will hear from Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom, one of the witnesses who was scheduled to testify last September, as well as three former directors of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection: William MacLeod, Lydia Parnes and Jessica Rich. We thank these former FTC officials for their public service and all of the witnesses for appearing today to offer their insights on how to improve the commission.  

For over a century, the FTC has been protecting competition and consumers by enforcing the nation’s antitrust laws and combatting deception and unfairness in a wide variety of industries. Through its efforts, the FTC has often helped to prevent anticompetitive practices that stifle innovation, lower quality or raise prices. It has also helped ensure that consumers can make informed choices based on accurate advertising, and avoid injury from fraud and unfair trade practices, such as unauthorized credit card charges.

Although the FTC’s efforts have produced many benefits for consumers and the economy, this committee and others have questioned the way it sometimes exercises its authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which addresses unfair and deceptive acts in commerce. Others have argued that the FTC sometimes conducts investigations and issues orders that impose unnecessary costs, and that it does not always provide adequate guidance to businesses seeking to comply with the laws the FTC enforces.

These concerns have sparked numerous proposals regarding how to reform the FTC. For example, last December the House Energy and Commerce Committee favorably reported H.R. 5510, the FTC Process and Transparency Reform Act of 2016, legislation incorporating eight separate reform bills designed to clarify the FTC’s unfairness authority, improve the way the FTC operates, foster greater transparency and reduce unnecessary costs.

Similarly, in January 2017, the American Bar Association Antitrust Section issued its 60-page Presidential Transition Report. It makes a number of recommendations for improving the FTC’s handling of antitrust and consumer protection issues, including repeal of the common carrier exemption and better coordination on privacy between the FTC and other agencies, greater transparency and fairness in the enforcement process, more judicious use of civil investigative demands, better communication with investigation targets, less burdensome “boilerplate” order provisions and monetary relief proportional to the injury caused and the defendant’s culpability.

The report also urges the FTC to provide additional guidance on topics relating to unfair practices, data security, monetary remedies, advertising interpretation and “clear and conspicuous” disclosure requirements. Other private groups, such as TechFreedom, have also proposed various reforms designed to address concerns about the FTC.

The FTC has already taken steps to address some of the concerns addressed by the House bill, the ABA Report, and other stakeholders. Specifically, this year the commission adopted several initiatives to eliminate waste and unnecessary regulation, streamline agency information demands, improve transparency and promote economic liberty.

As we look ahead to the White House’s nominations of candidates to serve as FTC commissioners, it is especially important for this committee to provide a forum to address these issues.

We look forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses this afternoon and to engaging in a dialog on the best ways to advance reforms at the commission. 

With that, I will turn to the Ranking Member, Senator Blumenthal, for his opening statement.

Subcommittee to Examine TSA Aviation Security Reforms

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-M.O.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, will convene a legislative hearing titled “TSA Modernization: Improvements to Aviation Security” at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, September 28, 2017. The hearing will examine key reform proposals in upcoming legislation to reform and improve aviation security policy and programs at the TSA. This hearing builds on Committee oversight efforts following a February 2017 subcommittee hearing that explored stakeholder perspectives on how TSA can better serve the traveling public.


Witnesses:

-  Mr. Brian Weiler, Director of Aviation, Springfield-Branson National Airport
-  Mr. Stephen Alterman, President, Cargo Airline Association; Chairman, Aviation Security Advisory Committee
-  Ms. Sissy Pressnell, Vice President of Government Relations, Smiths Group; Vice Chair, Security Manufacturers Coalition
-  Mr. Michael White, Vice President, Government & Industry Relations, Cargo Networks Services Corp, International Air Transport Association (IATA)

Hearing Details:

Thursday, September 28, 2017
10:00 a.m.
Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Committee Announces Hearing for CPSC, DOT, & DOC Nominees

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a nominations hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, for four presidential nominees subject to Senate confirmation.

Witnesses:

-  The Honorable Ann Marie Buerkle, of New York, to be Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
-  Rear Admiral (Ret.) Timothy Gallaudet, of California, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
-  Mr. Howard R. Elliott, of Indiana, to be Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Department of Transportation
-  Dr. Walter G. Copan, of Colorado, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
10:00 a.m.
Full Committee

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Subcommittee to Examine FTC's Handling of Consumer Protection Cases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, will convene a hearing titled “FTC Stakeholder Perspecitves: Reform Proposals to Improve Fairness, Innovation, and Consumer Welfare” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 26, 2017. The subcommittee will explore recommendations by stakeholders and former Commission officials for improving the FTC’s handling of consumer protection cases and general process reforms.

Witnesses:

-  Mr. William MacLeod, Partner, Kelley Drye
-  Ms. Lydia Parnes, Partner, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
-  Ms. Jessica Rich, Vice President, Policy and Modernization, Consumers Union
-  Mr. Berin Szoka, President, TechFreedom

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Committee Announces Legislative Hearing: S. 1693, The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017

Hearing will discuss proposal to combat online exploitation as well as concerns about weakening protections of the Communications Decency Act...

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

As we convene this hearing today, an untold number of women and children in the United States are being sold into sexual slavery via the internet. In just a few clicks, victims from all walks of life and parts of the country are being forced to endure brutal and unspeakable crimes.   Let me repeat – women and children are being forced into sex slavery in modern day America and it could very well happen to someone you know.

If that’s not a wakeup call then I don’t know what is. And sadly, it is a truth that my fellow Floridians know tragically all too well.  According to the human trafficking hotline, Florida ranks third in the country for the number of cases reported in 2016.

The question before us today is simple.  Why aren’t we doing everything we can to stop this heinous practice?   After all, we’re talking about modern day slavery and our children are at risk.

The bill we have before us today would help us shut down despicable websites that promote sexual trafficking. Let’s not kid ourselves, these shady and highly profitable website operators know full well how their sites are being used.  What’s more, they’re hiding behind a decades old legal shield in federal communication law to immunize themselves from prosecution. 

This bill by Senators Portman, Blumenthal, McCain, Heitkamp, myself and others would eliminate this safe harbor for sex traffickers and allow state Attorneys General, other state and local prosecutors, and victims to go after websites that knowingly provide a platform for sex trafficking.  It would not, as some claim, take a sledgehammer to the internet.  Rather, it takes a commonsense, responsible and targeted approach – one that the courts tell us only we can take – to limit the scope of current law and help end the scourge of child sex trafficking on the internet.

While some stakeholders have concerns about this bill, I strongly believe we cannot sit idly by any longer while websites aid and abet child sex traffickers.  The cost of inaction is far too high.

<span>Thank you for joining us today

Thank you for joining us today for our hearing on S.1693, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017, our second committee hearing on human trafficking this year.

I’m particularly thankful that we will have the benefit of hearing from Yvonne Ambrose, who – very courageously – will share her heartbreaking family story with us.

We will also hear from Senators Portman, Blumenthal, and Wyden, who will offer their perspectives about the current state of the law and the proposed changes.

We will then have the opportunity to hear from our panel of expert witnesses, who will share their views on this legislation, which has garnered significant support, but also raised some questions.

Last month, Senators Portman and Blumenthal introduced the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 with a bipartisan group of more than twenty cosponsors – a number that has grown since then, and which includes eight members of this committee.  As many already know, this bill would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to enable victims, as well as state and federal law enforcement, to bring to justice websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. 

Sex trafficking is an evil that affects every community across America.  I think everyone agrees that more must done to address this horrendous problem.  That’s why the conversation we’re having today is so important.    

As I mentioned, earlier this year, this committee held a hearing to examine ways that our nation’s transportation providers and supply chains can fight the growth of sex trafficking in the United States and slave labor in the global economy. 

That same week, Senators Klobuchar, Nelson, and I introduced two bills to address human trafficking prevention and enforcement in transportation.   I’m proud that both bills passed the full Senate last week, and I am hopeful that the House of Representatives will act soon to send these bills to the President’s desk.

There is, however, more that can be done.  That brings us to the legislation before us today.

I want to be clear: the website backpage.com has been the impetus for much of the discussion around Section 230, and nearly everyone agrees that the website should be held accountable.  But this is not the “Anti-backpage.com Act of 2017.”  This legislation is intended to address a larger problem, not a specific website. 

Backpage may have suspended its “adult services” section amid pressure from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, but what about the next online haven for such activity?

At the same time, some argue that because we frequently know exactly where this sort of activity is taking place online, law enforcement can better monitor it, and fight it.  Such observers caution that, if our legislative solution is too broad, it could have the opposite of its intended effect.

Given this challenge, I believe the cooperation of the tech industry will be critical to any effective solution this committee and our Senate colleagues might hope to forge.  There are many positive stories to be told about how internet companies work with law enforcement and victim’s rights organizations to fight sex trafficking, but I believe that these companies – like the rest of us – have an obligation to do more. 

I look forward to hearing more from Ms. Abigail Slater, who is here today representing the Internet Association, and who will tell us more about the specific work the association’s member companies do, and will do, to fight those who would use their platforms for evil. 

We will also hear from California Attorney General Becerra, who will offer testimony from his perspective as the chief law enforcement officer of the state of California.  Attorney General Becerra is currently prosecuting a case against backpage.com, and can offer insight into the legal history of such cases.  He can also speak to the recent request by 50 state and territorial Attorneys General to be allowed to enforce their respective criminal laws pertaining to sex trafficking in this arena.

Ms. Youras is here today representing the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which serves as the national clearinghouse for reports relating to child sex trafficking, and as the coordinator of the national response to problems relating to missing and exploited children.

Finally, Mr. Goldman is a law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, who has devoted much of his professional life to analyzing laws and their impact on the internet, and will be able to speak about the potential legal consequences of the proposed changes contemplated by this legislation.

Thank you all for being here and for the advocacy and work you are engaged in.  These are issues that are often difficult to discuss, but I believe this committee provides an appropriate venue for serious consideration of difficult matters, and I appreciate your participation in our discussion. 

Finally, before I turn to Ranking Member Nelson for his opening statement, I just want to acknowledge that our colleague Senator McCain had also hoped to join us today, given his long leadership on efforts to combat human trafficking, but he had an unavoidable conflict at the Armed Services Committee, which he chairs.  Without objection, Senator McCain’s statement will be included in the record.  I would note, however, that we are honored to have Mrs. Cindy McCain in our audience today, along with a number of distinguished guests, including Senator Heitkamp.

With that, I turn to Senator Nelson.    

Nelson Calls on Airlines to Cap Fares Ahead of Hurricane Maria

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) today sent letters to the CEOs of 10 major U.S.-based airlines urging them to begin capping airfares for those fleeing the path of Hurricane Maria.

“As you know, Hurricane Maria is a major hurricane and is threatening Puerto Rico and the Caribbean now and may be a threat to the U.S. coast by next week,” Nelson wrote. “Therefore, I urge you to begin the process now for implementing capped airfare and ensuring that refunds are promptly issued for cancelled flights.” 

“Individuals and families should not be forced to delay or cancel their evacuation efforts because of confusion over the cost of airfare,” Nelson added.

Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee which oversees the nation’s airline industry, sent letters to the heads of American, United, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, Alaska, Hawaiian, Frontier and Allegiant.

Following is the text of Nelson’s letter:

September 18, 2017

 

Mr. Robin Hayes

Chairman and CEO

JetBlue

27-01 Queens Plaza North

Long Island City, NY 11101 

Dear Mr. Robin Hayes:

             In the days leading up to Hurricane Irma making landfall in Florida, I communicated to many airlines the concerns of individuals and families facing the prospect of paying excessive airfare to evacuate areas within the hurricane’s path.  My office received many complaints about airfare pricing during this time.  Information and screenshots of airfare well into the thousands of dollars were widely covered by news outlets and documented on social media. 

             I appreciate that several airlines ultimately capped airfare for some flights to and from affected areas after listening to these concerns.  However, your assistance in preventing future airfare spikes in advance of hurricanes and making policies regarding capped airfares available to the public is needed immediately.

             As you know, Hurricane Maria is a major hurricane and is threatening Puerto Rico and the Caribbean now and may be a threat to the U.S. coast by next week.  Therefore, I urge you to begin the process now for implementing capped airfare and ensuring that refunds are promptly issued for cancelled flights.  I also request that your policies on capped airfare be communicated clearly and in writing so that affected residents can evacuate quickly and safely.  Individuals and families should not be forced to delay or cancel their evacuation efforts because of confusion over the cost of airfare.

             I appreciate your consideration of my request and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely

 

Commerce Leaders Urge FTC to Remain Vigilant in the Wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, together with Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the chairman and ranking member of the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security Subcommittee, today sent a letter to the acting chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The letter urges the FTC to remain vigilant in its efforts to protect Americans from fraud and scams that could arise in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. 

Excerpt from the letter to the FTC:

“In recent days, we have witnessed the national outpouring of support and aid to the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma and have seen once again that natural disasters bring out the best in Americans.  Congress also recently devoted billions of dollars to assist in rebuilding efforts and is likely to provide more in the future.  Unfortunately, major natural disasters also present an opportunity for fraudsters and scam artists to prey on the compassion and goodwill of fellow citizens as well as hurricane victims when they are at their most vulnerable.”  

The full letter to the FTC may be viewed here

The Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security have jurisdiction over consumer protection, as well as fraud and scams.

Senate Passes Two Bills to Combat Human Trafficking

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today applauded Senate passage, by unanimous consent, of two bills to combat human trafficking in the U.S. transportation sector.

Nelson calls on cable, telephone and internet companies to provide service rebates, waive late fees for Hurricane Irma victims

ORLANDO, FL - U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) asked the heads of the nation’s largest cable, telephone and internet providers today to provide Hurricane Irma victims rebates for service interruptions and impose a 60-day moratorium on late fees and other penalties. 

Nelson made the request in letters sent to the CEOs of AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Enterprises, Frontier Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.    

“I’ve been heartened by the many stories of Floridians helping Floridians as I crisscross the state to survey the damage. I ask that you follow their example and do all you can to ease the burden on those suffering from the storm.  Now is the time to lend a helping hand to your fellow Americans—to help them meet their immediate needs without the added stress of excessive financial demands,” Nelson wrote.

According to data released yesterday by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), at least 8.1 million cable and wireline subscribers are without service in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia due to Hurricane Irma. Additionally, the FCC reported that 18 percent of cell sites in Florida were out of service.

Below is the text of Nelson’s letter and a list of company executives receiving the letter.  Click here for a pdf of the letter. 

 

September 14, 2017

 

Mr. Lowell McAdam

Chairman and CEO

Verizon

140 West Street

New York, NY 10007

Dear Mr. McAdam,

As you know, Florida is beginning to come back from the depths of Hurricane Irma, a monster storm that swallowed much of the state, flooding neighborhoods and knocking out power for millions of people.  I know your company is hard at work restoring communications service to the citizens of my state as quickly as possible, and I continue to urge you to make restoration of service a top priority.

As we begin the recovery process, it’s important that consumers not be saddled with late fees and other unnecessary costs—particularly those without the means to deal with such costs. Therefore, I ask that you provide a 60-day moratorium on late fees, interest accrual, penalties, and any other unnecessary costs, to give people time to recover and get back on their feet.  I also would request that your companies provide rebates or credits to your subscribers for any interruption in voice, video, or internet service that occurred due to Hurricane Irma.

I’ve been heartened by the many stories of Floridians helping Floridians as I crisscross the state to survey the damage. I ask that you follow their example and do all you can to ease the burden on those suffering from the storm. Now is the time to lend a helping hand to your fellow Americans—to help them meet their immediate needs without the added stress of excessive financial demands.

I look forward to hearing your response to this request and stand ready to work with you to serve the people of Florida. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

Committee Announces Legislative Hearing: S. 1693, The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a legislative hearing titled “S.1693, The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017”

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