Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, for the purposes of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Lincoln Diaz-Balart). All time yielded during consideration of the rule is for debate only.
I yield myself such time as I may consume. I also ask unanimous consent that all Members may be given 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks on House Resolution 1157.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, H. Res. 1157 provides for the consideration of H.R. 5522, the Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act of 2008, under a structured rule. The rule provides 1 hour of general debate controlled by the Committee on Education and Labor, and makes in order the committee-reported substitute. It also makes in order two amendments printed in the Rules report, with a manager's amendment debatable for 10 minutes and the Wilson substitute debatable for 30 minutes.
Finally, the rule provides one motion to recommit, with or without instructions.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this rule and the underlying legislation, H.R. 5522, the Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Act of 2008. It directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue rules regulating combustible industrial dust that can build up to hazardous levels and explode.
Combustible dust has caused deaths and injuries to workers in our Nation, deaths and injuries that could have been prevented. Most recently, everyone can recall the enormous explosion in February at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Savannah, Georgia, which claimed the lives of 13 workers and injured over 60. Many of these workers remain hospitalized today, receiving care for the severe burns they received on that awful day.
While OSHA has marginally improved dust inspection procedures, this legislation goes further to bring combustible dust emissions under control by establishing stronger standards. Included are engineering controls, hazardous inspection, security assessments, housekeeping and explosion protection standards.
Specifically, the Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Act requires OSHA to issue an interim final standard to control the risk of combustible dust explosions. The standard would contain provisions for housekeeping, engineering controls, and worker training.
Mr. Speaker, in 2003, there was a series of similar explosions at various factories due to combustible dust. The U.S. government undertook a study carried out by the Chemical Safety Board to determine the causes and make recommendations to OSHA. That report came out 2 years ago in 2006. OSHA has yet to issue standards to control the risks to workers and companies on the hazards of combustible dust.
For this reason, the bill requires an interim standard to be issued. OSHA would then be required to issue a final standard within 18 months through its regular procedures. OSHA would be required to ``include relevant and appropriate provisions of National Fire Protection Association combustible dust standards.''
H.R. 5522 would also direct OSHA to explicitly list combustible dusts as a ``physical hazard'' in the Hazard Communication Standard, which requires employers to train workers about the chemical hazards that they are exposed to.
Mr. Speaker, every worker in this country deserves a safe and healthy work environment. The AFL-CIO, the UAW, the International Association of Firefighters, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the SEIU, the Teamsters, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union all strongly support this important legislation.
By establishing stronger protections and safer standards, this legislation better ensures thousands of workers in refineries, mills, and plants from risk of death or injury.
I urge my colleagues to support the rule, and I support the underlying legislation.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) for the time, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.
On February 7, 2008, a terrible explosion occurred at the Imperial Sugar Company refinery in the community of Port Wentworth, Georgia. The explosion killed 13 people, injured over 40 refinery workers. That explosion at the Imperial Sugar Company refinery pointed to the danger of combustible dust in the workplace. It's a very serious concern, and we must take every possible step to protect workers from those dangers.
The underlying legislation, the Combustible Dust Explosion and Fire Prevention Act, would require OSHA to issue an interim final combustible dust standard within 90 days and a permanent standard within 18 months. It also [Page: H2892]
lists a specific number of items that would be required under the Interim Final Standard including a written dust control program, hazard assessment, worker training and employee participation in the development and conduct of the dust
control program. OSHA would also be required to include combustible dust in the definition of physical hazards in OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard.
It is quite disconcerting, Mr. Speaker, that on an issue as important as workplace safety, the majority is only allowing the House of Representatives to consider one amendment by the minority, one Republican amendment. The majority campaign platform said they would run the House of Representatives in an open and bipartisan manner, yet they systematically and consistently block the minority time and time again from offering amendments.
All Members of this representative institution wish to do the most they can to provide workers a safe working environment, Mr. Speaker. And it is most unfortunate that the majority blocks Members from offering their proposals. Instead of offering such a tightly structured rule, the majority should be allowing every Member the opportunity to offer their thoughts and proposals to the House for consideration.
As important as the underlying legislation may be, I believe there are other issues that are on the minds of Americans at this point that are pressing to Americans: For example, confronting the rising cost of gasoline.
On Monday, hundreds of truckers drove through the streets of this capital city to protest in desperation the rising cost of diesel fuel. They are not the only ones desperate due to the rising oil prices. All consumers are paying more for gasoline, which also causes price increases in virtually every consumer product, including food. A recent policy found that 44 percent of Americans find paying for gasoline to be their top personal economic problem.
Since Democrats took control of Congress in January of last year, the cost of a gallon of unleaded gasoline has skyrocketed. According to AAA, the national average for regular unleaded gas has gone up $1.20 during that time. The cost of gas has gone up more in 15 months than it had gone up in the prior 6 years.
But oil prices don't have to be so high, Mr. Speaker, because I understand the majority claims to have a plan, a plan to reduce oil prices. Just over 2 years ago, April 2006, now-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then the Democrat minority leader, issued a press release claiming that House Democrats, ``have a commonsense plan to bring down skyrocketing gas prices.'' Two weeks after that press release, then-Minority Leader PELOSI said that Democrats have ``real solutions''
that would lower the price at the pump. That was 2 years ago.
Democrats have controlled Congress for a year and a half, and we have yet to see them act on their ``commonsense plan to bring down skyrocketing gas prices.''
Instead of empty promises, Republicans are working on providing relief to consumers faced with the constantly rising cost of gasoline. For example, last week, I, along with several of my colleagues, introduced H.R. 5905, the CARS Act, the prime sponsor of which is Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart. That legislation would give commuters a tax break on their commuting expenses. That important legislation will actually help taxpayers with the rising cost of gasoline, unlike the majority's ``mystery
plan,'' the mystery plan, Mr. Speaker, that we have not yet seen.
At this time, I reserve my time.
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time. I would ask the gentleman if he has any other speakers.
I will reserve my time and let the gentleman close.
Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to thank Mr. McGovern for the time. Back in April of 2006, as I just said, over 2 years ago, the now distinguished Speaker, Ms. Pelosi, issued the following statement, ``With skyrocketing gas prices, it is clear that the American people can no longer afford the Republican rubberstamp Congress and its failure to stand up to Republican big oil and gas company cronies. Americans this week are paying $2.91 a gallon
on average for regular gasoline, 33 cents higher than last month and double the price than when President Bush first came into office.''
Mr. Speaker, most Americans would be happy if they were paying $2.91 for a gallon of gasoline.
In the same press release, the distinguished Speaker went on to say, ``Democrats have a commonsense plan to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices.''
Well, while I hear they have a plan, I haven't seen the mystery plan, Mr. Speaker. Instead, while we wait for the majority to act, the cost of fuel continues to rise with the average cost of a gallon of gasoline now being over $3.60, hitting consumers at the pump every time they go to fill up their cars, reinforcing the fact that the majority has yet to confront the high price of gasoline.
Today, Investor's Business Daily in an editorial said that this Congress is ``possibly the most irresponsible in modern history. This is especially true when it comes to America's dysfunctional energy policy.''
Mr. Speaker, I insert into the Congressional Record that editorial from Investor's Business Daily.