Coalition Joined by AG Tong Secures Federal Court Order and Settlement Requiring Asbestos Reporting To Protect Public Health
(Hartford, CT) – Under a settlement reached by a coalition of 11 states joined by Attorney General William Tong, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to require the chemical industry to provide the agency with information about the use and importation of asbestos needed to protect the public from the serious health risks posed by exposure to highly toxic asbestos.
Today’s settlement follows a December 2020 ruling from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in favor of the coalition, mandating EPA to impose the reporting requirements on the chemical industry. The Trump Administration’s Department of Justice filed a motion challenging that decision, but today’s settlement—reached with the Biden Administration’s EPA—ensures that EPA will have to act under the Court’s mandate to move forward with the required reporting.
“This settlement is a huge win for public health. Asbestos is a dangerous and deadly carcinogen that kills more than 15,000 people a year and causes life-threatening illnesses,” Attorney General Tong said. “Today’s settlement is an important commitment by the Biden Administration to better regulate the import and use of asbestos and protect the public from this toxic threat.”
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, as well as in sheet gaskets, brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and brake linings, and other consumer products. 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 articles that contain asbestos or otherwise manufacture such products, including those products in which asbestos may be present as an unintentional contaminant, are exempt from providing EPA with information about these asbestos-containing products.
In January 2019, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and then California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led a coalition in filing a petition with EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) 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 TSCA to prevent unreasonable risks to health and the environment presented by asbestos and help ensure EPA’s regulatory decisions are consistent with the best available science. EPA denied the states’ petition and the multistate coalition, led by Massachusetts and California, sued the agency in July 2019, along with a group of NGOs led by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
Today’s settlement, when approved by the Court, will compel EPA to issue the regulations sought in the AGs’ petition and will mark the first time a petition of this kind under TSCA has resulted in court-ordered rulemaking.
Joining Attorney General Tong in the settlement are the attorneys general of California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
Assistant Attorney General Scott Koschwitz and Chief of the Environment Section Matthew Levine assisted the Attorney General with this matter.