Press Release

Eleven AGs Challenge EPA’s Refusal to Protect Public Health by Strengthening Asbestos Reporting Requirements

EPA’s denial of states’ petition is “arbitrary, capricious and not in accordance with law,” leaves agency with “unreliable and inadequate information” to protect public from exposure to harmful asbestos.

Wash­ing­ton, D.C. — A coali­tion of 11 state attor­neys gen­er­al led by Mass­a­chu­setts Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mau­ra Healey and Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra filed a law­suit on June 28 against the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) chal­leng­ing the agency’s denial of the states’ peti­tion to shore up report­ing require­ments for asbestos under the Chem­i­cal Data Report­ing rule of the Tox­ic Sub­stances Con­trol Act (TSCA).

Asbestos is a known car­cino­gen that kills tens of thou­sands of peo­ple every year, yet the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion is choos­ing to ignore the very seri­ous health risks it pos­es for our res­i­dents,” said Attor­ney Gen­er­al Healey. We urge the Court to order EPA to issue this new rule to help pro­tect work­ers, fam­i­lies, and chil­dren from this tox­ic chem­i­cal.”

It is wide­ly acknowl­edged that asbestos is one of the most harm­ful and tox­ic chem­i­cals known to humankind,” said Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra. While it’s trou­bling that we must once again take the EPA to court to force the agency to do its job, we won’t pull any punch­es. There’s too much at stake to let the EPA ignore the dan­ger that dead­ly asbestos pos­es to our com­mu­ni­ties, includ­ing to work­ers and chil­dren.”

TSCA requires the EPA to use the best avail­able sci­ence” to pre­vent unrea­son­able risk to pub­lic health or to the envi­ron­ment from expo­sure to tox­ic chem­i­cals. The EPA has failed to meet that stan­dard with respect to asbestos due to defi­cien­cies in TSCA’s Chem­i­cal Data Report­ing rule, includ­ing the cat­e­go­riza­tion of raw asbestos as an exempt­ed nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring sub­stance” and the exclu­sion of import­ed prod­ucts that con­tain asbestos as a com­po­nent or an impu­ri­ty from the rule’s report­ing require­ments. In Jan­u­ary, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Healey and Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led a mul­ti-state coali­tion in peti­tion­ing the EPA to address those defi­cien­cies; the EPA reject­ed the peti­tion in April.

In their com­plaint, the attor­neys gen­er­al note that the EPA jus­ti­fied its denial in part by claim­ing to already have suf­fi­cient infor­ma­tion avail­able,” despite the agency’s own admis­sion that it does not know the amount of asbestos con­tained in con­sumer prod­ucts.” The U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey, the source of the EPA’s infor­ma­tion on import­ed asbestos, dis­claims the com­plete­ness” of that infor­ma­tion, which it says is only an esti­mate of total imports” of asbestos.

The attor­neys gen­er­al also note that the EPA’s fail­ure to require thor­ough report­ing on asbestos expo­sure risks deprives their states of reli­able and com­pre­hen­sive” infor­ma­tion and inhibits their own reg­u­la­to­ry efforts. The attor­neys gen­er­al seek judi­cial review of the EPA’s peti­tion denial under TSCA Sec­tion 21, which grants a spe­cif­ic right to sue where EPA denies a peti­tion,” and the Admin­is­tra­tive Pro­ce­dure Act, which pro­hibits agency actions that are arbi­trary, capri­cious, an abuse of dis­cre­tion, or oth­er­wise not in accor­dance with law.”

The dan­gers of asbestos have been well estab­lished for decades, yet the EPA is choos­ing to ignore infor­ma­tion gaps that put the pub­lic at risk of con­tin­ued expo­sure,” said David J. Hayes, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the State Ener­gy & Envi­ron­men­tal Impact Cen­ter. The EPA’s fail­ure is par­tic­u­lar­ly inex­cus­able in light of Con­gress’ clear direc­tion in its 2016 amend­ments to the Tox­ic Sub­stances Con­trol Act that the agency col­lect and ana­lyze pre­cise­ly this type of asbestos risk-relat­ed infor­ma­tion.”

The attor­neys gen­er­al of Con­necti­cut, Hawaii, Maine, Mary­land, Min­neso­ta, New Jer­sey, Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. joined Mass­a­chu­setts and Cal­i­for­nia in fil­ing the lawsuit.

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.