Klobuchar, Tester seek to exempt ATVs, dirt bikes from lead regs


by Jeremy P. Jacobs

Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Jon Tester of Montana yesterday introduced legislation that would exempt all terrain vehicles (ATVs) and youth dirt bikes from a law that strictly limits the amount of lead that can be found in children's products.

Klobuchar and Tester's bill, which is an amendment to the small business bill currently under consideration in the Senate, would prevent lead restrictions under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) from applying to the vehicles.

CPSIA was passed in 2008 in response to an uptick in product recalls and reports of lead being found in children's toys. The law limited the amount of lead present in children's products to 300 parts per million. This August that limit will shrink to 100 parts per million.

Critics have charged that the lead regulations in CPSIA were intended for small children's toys, not ATVs and dirt bikes.

"This legislation would ensure a commonsense approach that keeps snowmobiles, ATVs, and other off-road vehicles safe and available to our children and outdoor enthusiasts," Klobuchar said in a statement to E&E Daily. "I will continue to work to keep strong safety standards in place while making sure consumers can continue to enjoy these products."

The issue has become a major focus for Tester. Earlier this year, he reintroduced a "dirt bike bill" that sought the same exemption for dirt bikes and ATVs designed for kids 6 years old and older.

"In Montana and across rural America, riding motorized vehicles like dirt bikes is part of the outdoor heritage we enjoy with our kids and grandkids," Tester said in a statement to E&E Daily. "That's why we need to add a little common sense to the equation so we protect kids from lead toys while also recognizing there's a difference between a dollhouse and a dirt bike."

It is unclear whether the Klobuchar-Tester amendment will come up for a vote. More than 80 amendments have been added to the small business bill, which Democrats say is vital to job creation.

The ATV and dirt bike industry immediately applauded the amendment.

"We're very excited that the senators chose to offer this," said Paul Vitrano, general counsel of the Motorcycle Industry Council, which represents off-highway motorcycle and ATV manufacturers. "We think it is absolutely critical that ATVs and motorcycles for the youth are exempted. This is the best and most effective way of accomplishing that."

The Motorcycle Industry Council has also launched a coordinated campaign for such an exemption at StopTheBanNow.com.

In the House, the CPSIA lead requirements have become a rallying cry among Republicans who have become increasingly critical of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is charged with implementing the statute.

At a hearing last month, CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum urged Congress for more flexibility in providing exemptions to the lead requirements. She also specifically said that CPSC would make exceptions if "lead absolutely has to be in a children's product," such as bicycles and ATVs.