15 AGs Petition EPA for New Rule Removing Loopholes on Asbestos Reporting

The EPA does not possess or collect comprehensive data on asbestos, which causes 15,000 premature deaths each year.

There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, a highly toxic chemical and carcinogen that has been linked to mesothelioma, lung cancer and many other diseases.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 31, 2019
Contact: Christopher Gray
Christopher.Gray@nyu.edu
(929)-333-6213

Washington, D.C. — A coalition of 15 attorneys general led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey petitioned Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler today to develop a new asbestos reporting rule what would eliminate exemptions for the highly toxic chemical under the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule. Asbestos is a material that is widely used throughout the U.S. economy and is a known carcinogen that is also linked to lung disorders and diseases.

“Each year, tens of thousands die from exposure to asbestos,” said AG Healey. “We urge Acting Administrator Wheeler to issue a rule that will protect the lives of thousands of workers, families and children in Massachusetts and across the country.”

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the EPA is tasked with preventing unreasonable risk to health or to the environment from toxic chemicals. TSCA's CDR rule requires manufacturers and importers to report information about the manufacturing, processing and use of toxic chemicals, in order to help the EPA regulate toxic chemicals so as to protect human health and the environment. Yet, currently, EPA's asbestos data does not comprehensively capture the importing, processing and use of asbestos in the United States.

The petition, filed by the attorneys general, requests that EPA address this problem. Specifically, it requests EPA issue a new reporting rule for asbestos that would eliminate "naturally occurring substance" as an exemption for asbestos reporting, require processors of asbestos to adhere to the CDR's reporting requirements and require that imported articles containing asbestos also be reported. The information that would be collected under this rule would enable EPA to more effectively regulate asbestos and fulfill its TSCA responsibility to prevent unreasonable risk to health and the environment.

“It is widely known that asbestos is one of the most harmful chemicals known to humankind,” said AG Becerra. “There is no excuse to continue allowing any amounts of toxic asbestos to pass into our community, especially into the lungs of workers and children, when we know the danger it presents. We call on Acting Administrator Wheeler to begin the process of eliminating exemptions that allow this unsafe chemical to continue to harm tens of thousands of people each year.”

In addition to California and Massachusetts, state attorneys general of Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia also joined in filing the multi-state petition to the EPA.

BACKGROUND

On August 3, 2018, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey led a multi-state coalition of 12 state attorneys general in submitting comments to the EPA criticizing the Trump administration’s proposed framework for evaluating the risks posed by asbestos and ten other highly toxic chemicals under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The Lautenberg Act was signed into law in June 2016 as an amendment to TSCA.

In their comment letter, the attorneys general noted that Congress’s most recent amendment to TSCA was a clear attempt at removing existing obstacles preventing the EPA from rigorously stepping up its enforcement efforts to limit the dangers posed by asbestos and nine other highly toxic substances to public health and the environment. Nevertheless, the Trump administration responded with a proposal for enforcing the law that would allow the EPA to disregard the risks posed by legacy uses of asbestos and other substances, resulting in “deeply flawed risk evaluations,” according to the attorneys general.

Due to its decision to disregard legacy uses of asbestos, the AGs noted that the Trump EPA would fail to identify risks posed by asbestos for workers dealing with aging building materials such as commercial tiles or again adhesives, as well as piping in residential and commercial buildings and underground infrastructure. Given these limitations, the AGs noted that the Trump administration’s proposal for enforcing TSCA runs counter to the EPA’s statutory mandate under the law, and is arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act.

ABOUT THE STATE ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT CENTER
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to working with state attorneys general to protect and advance clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visit our website.