WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine has joined a coalition of 11 state attorneys general in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its failure to require the chemical industry to provide the agency with the information it needs on asbestos to regulate it and protect the public from the serious health risks the substance poses.
Asbestos is a highly hazardous mineral fiber used in a variety of piping and building materials, from roofing and flooring, to siding and wallboard, to caulking and insulation. Exposure to asbestos can lead to life-threatening illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, mesothelioma, and other lung disorders and diseases. Currently, those who import products that contain asbestos are exempt from providing EPA with information about imported asbestos, even though the agency needs this data to protect the public from exposures to this notoriously toxic chemical.
The District of Columbia regulates the removal and abatement of asbestos through its own licensing and permitting requirements to ensure the safe removal and disposal of asbestos-containing material and the safety of asbestos abatement workers and the surrounding community. Because the District relies on the federal government to determine the universe of asbestos-containing material, any changes to that definition may lead to certain materials no longer being subject to the asbestos regulatory regime. This may lead to inadvertent exposure of abatement workers and District residents to unregulated asbestos-containing materials.
In January, AG Racine joined a coalition in filing a petition with EPA urging the agency to issue new regulations to provide data on the importation and use of asbestos in the United States. The coalition asserted that the new set of regulations is needed for the agency to meet its mandate under the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) to prevent unreasonable risks to health and the environment presented by asbestos. The new rule would also help ensure EPA’s regulatory decisions are consistent with the best available science.
The EPA denied the states’ petition in late April. In their lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging EPA’s denial of the petition, the coalition asserts that the denial of the petition was arbitrary and capricious and violates the agency’s obligations under TSCA. Specifically, the Attorneys General ask the court to compel EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to initiate a rulemaking and issue a new asbestos reporting rule to:
- Eliminate “naturally occurring substance” as an exemption for asbestos reporting;
- Require processors of asbestos, as well as manufacturers, including importers, of the chemical substance to adhere to reporting requirements;
- Ensure that the impurities exemption in the Chemical Data Reporting rule does not apply to asbestos; and,
- Require reporting with respect to imported articles that contain asbestos.
Joining AG Racine in filing the lawsuit are the attorneys general of Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.