WASHINGTON, D.C. – Six people whose families and communities were harmed by deregulation or inadequate regulatory protection blasted the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) (S. 951) at a press conference today, warning that the anti-regulatory legislation would shut down our nation’s system of public protections.
The press conference took place at the Economic Policy Institute and was organized by the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS), made up of more than 160 public interest organizations fighting for a strong regulatory system that protects workers, consumers, families and our environment. Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel for Consumer Federation of America, moderated the panel of six regular people from around the country, each of whom shared a tragic and heartbreaking story about how their families and communities have been devastated by inadequate regulatory safeguards.
Panelists included Amber Adamastos of Portland, Ore., who was denied justice due to forced arbitration; Dr. Paul Brooks of Vienna, W.V., whose community suffers from contaminated drinking water; Chrissy Christoferson of Bend, Ore., whose 10-month-old son was poisoned by salmonella in a toddler snack; Penny Dryden of Wilmington, Del., whose community faces widespread industrial and chemical pollution; Timothy Frink of Hollywood, Md., whose three-year-old granddaughter died because of a window blind cord; and Miles Harrison of Purcellville, Va., whose 21-month-old son died in a hot car. Bios and statements from the panelists are below.
Amber Adamastos is a consumer from a semi-rural community in southern Oregon who was denied justice due to forced arbitration. After a series of financial setbacks, Amber was forced to drop out of her masters’ program at the University of Pennsylvania and declare bankruptcy, where a court discharged some her private student loans with Citibank. Citibank ignored this order and began harassing Amber to repay the loans that had been wiped out. When the court ordered it to stop, Citibank refused, arguing that the court had no authority over the loans because of a fine-print arbitration clause in her contract.
“A new rule from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) would allow consumers like me to join together to take on Citibank and other lenders when they break the law, rather than having to fight them one-by-one in secret arbitration. But Congress is moving to repeal the CFPB rule and once again allow corporations to ignore important protections and hurt consumers with no accountability. Even worse, if Congress passes the RAA, agencies like the CFPB won’t be able to issue protections like this in the first place.”
Dr. Paul Brooks has been a doctor in the Parkersburg, West Virginia community since 1969 – a community suffers from contaminated drinking water. For more than 10 years he has been deeply involved with medical issues in his community related to the discovery of widespread C8 (also known as PFOA) contamination in the water supply from a nearby DuPont Teflon plant, including deaths from cancers. He has experienced the consequences of this contamination as a resident, as a doctor and as a researcher. From 2005 to 2008, Dr. Brooks was co-owner of Brookmar, Inc., which devised and executed an epidemiological collection of health data called the C8 Health Project. It is believed to be the largest project of its kind ever done in the world in one year. Over 69,000 individuals, from three-years of age to 90 years old participated. Six linked human diseases associated with C8 were discovered in the data.
“As a medical professional in the Parkersburg, WV community for more than 40 years, I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that poor regulation can cause a community. Even years after they knew it was unsafe, DuPont continued contaminating the water supply with C8. Stronger regulations could have helped prevent this tragedy. Legislation restricting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to create health-protective regulations would only create more Parkerburgs and should be rejected by Congress.”
Chrissy Christoferson – whose 10-month-old son was poisoned by salmonella in a toddler snack – lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband Carl and their two sons, Thomas (15) and Beck (11). She works for a local real estate developer and volunteers at both her kids’ schools. In the summer, she can usually be found rafting down a river and in the winter up at the mountain cross country-skiing or watching her kids downhill ski race.
“There should never be a question as to the safety of the food we feed our children. Legislation like the RAA would stand in the way of the best safety standards and that doesn’t make any sense.”
Penny Dryden grew up in Rosegate, along the Route 9 Corridor of New Castle, Delaware. Her community faces widespread industrial and chemical pollution. Penny is the founder and executive director of Community Housing and Empowerment Connections Inc., but is highly respected for over 30 years of leadership in community mobilizing and outreach. She is a member of the Delaware Concerned Residents for Environmental Justice and chair of the Delaware State NAACP Housing Committee. Penny received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Economics from Delaware State University. She is married to her husband, Kenneth Dryden, and has two sons.
“The lack of strong regulation on air pollution to local plants and industrial facilities will leave many communities like Rosegate right outside of Wilmington, Delaware and others more susceptible to asthma and respiratory illnesses. Legislation like the RAA would make it even harder for our communities to get the protection we need from polluters and industry bad actors. Therefore I strongly urge the U.S. Senate – especially the Delaware delegation – to stand with us and help protect us by voting down the RAA.”
Timothy Frink has five children, five living grandchildren, and Brianna, a precious three-year-old angel, who was strangled to death by a venetian blind cord five years ago. His daughter Christianna Jones and her husband Christopher are both veterans of multiple tours in the Iraq War. They both are now retired on disability due to war injuries. His children were willing to sacrifice a year with their two young girls and willing even to give their very own lives because they believed in protecting America from death and destruction. It is a terrible irony and a shame that precious Brianna was killed in her own home which should be a safe haven.
“For the last 40 years, window covering manufacturers have known their products are killing our children, yet they have been unwilling to stop production and sacrifice their profits. The RAA will make it almost impossible to force businesses to properly value all human life and especially to cease making child-killing products.”
Miles Harrison’s 21-month-old son tragically died in a hot car. He has over 25 years of healthcare project management experience, serving as the Chief Operating Officer for Go Energistics, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business. In the past eight years, he has directly led or supervised the successful project management, transition planning and implementation of 53 U.S. Department of Defense health care projects. He has developed several mandatory tools and templates currently being used in support of federal health care. Prior to that, in the commercial sector he planned the transition/activation for over 75 health care facilities.
“How can this be, that in our great country it is not mandatory that the simplest alarm is not required in all cars? Children are dying unnecessarily. Families are being destroyed unnecessarily. This has got to stop.”
Contact: David Rosen, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 588-7742