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Will proposed bill keep asbestos legal?

Despite some estimates that asbestos continues to claim as many as 15,000 lives every year, it still hasn’t been completely banned in the United States. In addition, the Senate is now considering new legislation that many believe will, if passed, make it much more difficult for federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban this dangerous material in the future.

According to a recent report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) — a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment — this proposed bill, otherwise known as the Regulatory Accountability Act, follows legislation passed last summer that originally removed many of the roadblocks that had previously stopped the EBA from banning asbestos outright.

Unfortunately, if the Regulatory Accountability Act (HR 5) is passed and signed into law, many new roadblocks will be put in place — essentially stopping the EBP in its current efforts to ban asbestos. For instance, under the language of HR 5, any proposed EPA rules regarding asbestos (or other public health concerns) would have to jump through several hoops, including:

  • Agencies must repeatedly consider potential alternatives for their new rules, and, in the case of asbestos, possible alternatives that may not include a complete ban.
  • Agencies are required to pick a rule on the basis of the “least cost,” meaning less effective asbestos-related rules may be approved solely on the basis of cost to the industry.
  • Agencies are required to hold a hearing before the adoption of any high-impact rule (meaning it will likely have an annual impact on the economy of $1 billion or more), which will further delay the rulemaking process.

Keep in mind, the points above are merely a small sample of how this bill may impact the federal rulemaking process.

While it is too early to know whether the Regulatory Accountability Act will become law, it has already been passed by the House and is now with the Senate. For now, we will just have to wait and see if this legislation will have the impact many already fear

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