EPA Defends Asbestos Reporting Loopholes in Court

Courthouse News

by Nicolas Iovino
San Francisco, CA – Despite identifying major gaps in knowledge about asbestos in a recent draft risk report, the Trump administration on Thursday defended lax reporting rules that let companies avoid disclosing how much asbestos is made, imported and put into U.S. products. “The EPA has offered its basis which is rooted in science, and the court should defer to the agency’s discretion,” Justice Department lawyer Brandon Adkins argued in federal court in California. Adkins was defending the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s December 2018 denial of a petition seeking to close loopholes in asbestos reporting requirements for U.S. importers and manufacturers. 

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Scientists Are Exploring Ways to Use Asbestos Mineral Waste from Mines to Pull Huge Amounts of Carbon Dioxide from the Air

MIT

by James Temple
Washington, DC – The vast surface area of certain types of fibrous asbestos, a class of carcinogenic compounds once heavily used in heat-resistant building materials, makes them particularly good at grabbing hold of the carbon dioxide molecules dissolved in rainwater or floating through the air. The initial hope is to offset the ample carbon emissions from mining itself using these minerals already extracted in the process. But the real hope is that this early work allows them to figure out how to effectively and affordably dig up minerals, potentially including asbestos, specifically for the purpose of drawing down vast amounts of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. 

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Partisan Fight Sinks Asbestos Ban Bill

Politico 

by Kelsey Tamborinno
Washington, DC – House leadership included the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now bill, H.R. 1603 (116), that won overwhelming support in committee on this week’s list of suspension votes. But Democrats added in a “saving clause” to satisfy a concern from Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) that the legislation might inadvertently affect thousands of ongoing private lawsuits over alleged asbestos contamination of talc powder. That prompted Republicans to pull their support, arguing Democrats “moved the goalposts.” Click here for the full text of the transcript.

Construction Industry Lobby Blocks Bill to Ban Asbestos

Environmental Working Group

by Alex Formuzis
Washington, DC – Legislation to ban the future use and importation of the notorious and deadly carcinogen asbestos was blocked from passing the House Thursday night after lobbyists representing a powerful sector of the building and construction industry objected. The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, or NSSGA, stopped the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, or ARBAN (H.R.1603,) from coming up for a vote over complaints that the definition of asbestos in the legislation was too broad, arguing it “deviates from the longstanding, mineralogically accurate definition.”  

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Asbestos Ban Stalls in Congress Amid Partisan Fight

The Hill

by Rebecca Beitch
Washington, DC – Democrats and Republicans are each accusing the other of holding up a bill to ban asbestos that had been expected to pass with little controversy this week. The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act exited committee with just one no vote and was expected to sail through the voting process without amendments. But Democratic aides on the Energy and Commerce Committee say that progress has stalled as GOP lawmakers object to a provision that assures the legislation would have no impact on ongoing litigation over injuries tied to use of talcum powder. 

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US House of Representatives to Vote On Bicameral Alan Reinstein Ban Asebstos Now Bill

Washington, DC – The bicameral Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 (ARBAN) will be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, September 29. ‘This bill will stop hundreds of metric tons of asbestos from entering the United States each year and will protect Americans from being exposed to the deadly threat of asbestos found in homes, schools, workplaces, and on consumer shelves,” said Linda Reinstein, President of ADAO and widow to the bill’s namesake. “As we saw in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we expect a strong vote in the House. We then expect the Senate to affirm that it is past time for the U.S. to join the nearly 70 countries that have already banned asbestos to protect their citizens from this known carcinogen.”

HR 1603 would accomplish several critical public health objectives:

  1. It would ban the importation and use of asbestos, and asbestos containing products within one year of enactment.
  2. Chlor-alkali plants using asbestos diaphragms would need to eliminate the use of asbestos and convert to non-asbestos technology following a ten-year transition period.
  3. The bill would establish a new Right-to-Know program to require current importers, processors, and distributors to report and disclose to the public how much asbestos is in U.S. commerce, where and how it is used, and who is exposed.
  4. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) would conduct a comprehensive study of risks presented by “legacy” asbestos used in building construction decades ago but still present in millions of residences, businesses, factories, public buildings, and schools.
  5. The presence of asbestos contaminants in consumer products and construction materials would be stringently controlled.
  6. The hazardous Libby Amphibole form of asbestos, found in attic insulation in millions of homes, would be covered by the ban.

 Click here for Tuesday’s House Schedule. Click here for the full text of the bill.

EPA Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals Finds Asbestos Risk Evaluation Flawed in Their Final Report

Washington, DC – The EPA Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals released their final report following the TSCA peer review meeting in June of this year. The report states: Overall, EPA’s environmental and human health risk evaluations for asbestos was not considered adequate and resulted in low confidence in the conclusions. This is due to missing data for environmental exposures, coupled with the fact that current estimates for human health risk are created for a narrow group of workers and consumer users based on limited exposure to chrysotile asbestos fibers leading to numerous uncertainties. The relatively meager concentration and exposure data available allows the risk evaluation to use the prudent approach of a reasonable worst-case analysis. 

Click here for the full report and meeting minutes or email info@eia-usa.org.

Diamond Offshore Warned Over Spread of Asebstos Debris in North Sea

Energy Voice

by Allistar Thomas
North Sea – The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said Diamond Offshore failed to protect workers on the Ocean Valiant rig from exposure to asbestos fibres. The incident, in September last year, took place on the Ocean Valiant while repairs were being made on a diesel engine which generates power on board. However, insulation against asbestos had been damaged in the unit, leading to the debris being “dispersed to the surrounding walkway and engine block thereby creating the risk of potential exposure of the crew to asbestos fibres”. 

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EPA’s New Asbestos Determination May Upend Decades of Science and Effect Litigation

National Law Review

by Clifford Pascarella, II
National – The EPA’s Draft Risk Evaluation for Asbestos (“DRE”) generated significant attention from industrial groups, experts, and various other parties involved in asbestos litigation. All sides have significant issues with the DRE as currently drafted. EPA was left with more than 75 comments to consider. Many of these comments include critiques from researchers and trade groups that assert that the proposed evaluation overestimates the risk posed by chrysotile and other asbestos-containing products, and flies in the face of decades of industry, scientific, and regulatory debate and consideration. EPA noted on a June 26, 2020 webinar regarding its ongoing TSCA evaluation that it is firmly committed to publishing a final rule for asbestos exposure by the end of 2020, despite the significant comments it has received. This suggests that the EPA may be prepared to push through its determination in its current form, which will significantly impact the asbestos litigation for years to come. 

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Standard View: A Precious Opportunity to Ban Asbestos Now

Montana Standard

Montana – Today it remains legal to import, manufacture and sell products containing asbestos in the United States – despite the fact that more than 60 countries worldwide have banned the deadly fiber. In November of 2019, the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act seemed to have real momentum. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, on a bipartisan 47-1 vote, recommended it be sent to the full House. But ironically, a lobbyist generally in favor of asbestos-ban legislation — the trial-lawyer organization American Association for Justice, representing plaintiffs’ attorneys — is using its enormous power particularly among Democratic lawmakers to hold up the bill, saying it cannot support the bill as written. AAJ is seeking arcane language changes that it believes will provide a more favorable litigation environment for its members. 

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