Malloy’s first veto of 2013 is consumer bill on foam insulation

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill Monday that would have required the state to establish standards for the spray polyurethane foam insulation industry. It is the governor’s first veto of 2013.

“I am quite shocked that he vetoed this,” said Richard Beyer of East Lyme, a homeowner whose complaints about the industry led to the bill.  “That’s very disappointing. The public needed something like this.”

Beyer complained to the legislature’s General Law Committee about an insulation job that left his 120-year-old family home reeking of acrid fumes that burned his eyes and compromised his lungs.

The bill was passed unanimously by the House and Senate.

“Everybody was in favor of this bill,” Beyer said. “For the governor to veto a bill to protect the consumer, it just makes it another sad day in Connecticut.”

The state Department of Public Health opposed the bill in public hearing testimony, warning legislators that “developing standards for installing SPF for the entire industry is beyond the resources and area of expertise of CT DPH.”

Malloy said in his veto message that he agreed with the health department.

“While I share the concerns that have been expressed by the supporters of this bill, I am concerned that the bill provides insufficient guidance as to the scope or objectives of the required regulations,” Malloy wrote.

A better approach would be to encourage credentialing and training for installers in accordance with industry standards that have been developed with federal worker safety and environmental agencies, he said.

Beyer said those standards are insufficient.

The spray-foam industry is unusual in that the product is manufactured in the home as two chemicals are mixed to create an expanding foam that dries to form an air-tight insulation layer.

Beyer said the product is commonly featured on “This Old House” and other home-improvement shows as a state-of-the-art method on making a house air tight. But not every crew is capable, he said.

“Every other building product in your home was manufactured in a controlled factory setting,” he said in his testimony. “If these products are not mixed properly, they will fail. It’s not if, it’s when. Is your health worth the risk?”

Beyer said his story is a common one, even though he was the only homeowner to testify at the public hearing.

“My home is one of many homes, unfortunately. This isn’t something speical that happened to me. This is going on acoss the country,” he said. 

Other homeowners are afraid to tell a story that will devalue their house.

“Nobody wants their home labeled,” he said.

Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, said Beyer had made a strong case.

“My constituent has done a tremendous amout of research on the spray foam insulation industry, and he is passionate about the need for regulation,” Jutila said.

Jutila said the governor erred in his veto message when he indicated that the vetoed bill also would have been redundant, since another bill established a certification program for certain types of spray foam insulation.

“That’s really all about certification that the manufacturer has to give about his product itself,” Jutila said. “It doesn’t really have anything to do about regulating the process and applying it out in the field, which is where the real damage can be done.”

In its testimony, a half-dozen industry representatives said the solution to bad consumer-experiences is an industry certification program.

Ellen Blaschinksi, the chief of regulatory services for the Department of Public Health, agreed in her written testimony.

“Our public health role is better suited to identifying and evaluating health risks and providing risk communication to help the public make informed choices about using these materials in CT home/buildings,” she said.

Beyer said he’s been told it would cost $150,000 to restore his home.