Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Career EPA Staff Objected to Trump Administration's Asbestos Plan

Politics
Career EPA Staff Objected to Trump Administration's Asbestos Plan
U.S. Air Force / Anthony Jennings

Attorneys and scientists with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) objected to the Trump administration's proposal of a "significant new use rule" (SNUR) for asbestos, according to internal agency emails obtained by the The New York Times.

Trump's former EPA boss Scott Pruitt quietly announced the proposal in June, framing the plan as an "important, unprecedented action on asbestos," a toxic construction material and known carcinogen that kills almost 15,000 U.S. citizens annually.


Asbestos is not banned in the U.S. but there are strict regulations on its use. But as Fast Company noted, the way the proposed rule is written could allow manufacturers to create new products containing asbestos on a case-by-case basis.

In one of the emails obtained by the Times, veteran EPA attorney Mark Seltzer raised red flags about the Trump administration's proposal.

"This new approach allows asbestos-containing products that are not currently used to be used in the future," Seltzer wrote in the May 2 email.

"Many manufacturers have stopped using asbestos in their products but would be allowed to through this SNUR if it is not one of the approximately 15 types that the SNUR requires a [notification] for," he said.

In another email from Sharon Cooperstein of the EPA's policy office, she "echoed" her colleagues' objections, adding that "the new approach raises significant concerns about the potential public health impacts of the SNUR."

EPA spokesman James Hewitt told the Times that the emails showed some staffers "did not fully understand the proposal being developed."

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) spoke against the EPA's proposed rule in a Thursday letter to acting EPA administrator Andrew R. Wheeler. The AIA said the proposal would "create a pathway to consider new uses of asbestos" and called on the EPA to entirely ban its use.

"The EPA should use their existing regulatory authority to establish a blanket ban on the use of asbestos," they wrote.

Wheeler blasted media reports that the Trump administration is trying to bring back asbestos. He tweeted that his agency "is proposing a new rule that would allow for the restriction of asbestos manufacturing and processing of new uses of asbestos."

The proposal is open for public comment until Aug. 10.

Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The wildfires that roared through Eastern Washington in September had a devastating impact on an extremely endangered species of rabbit.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A protestor in NYC holds up a sign that reads, "November Is Coming" on June 14, 2020 in reference to voting in the 2020 presidential election. Ira L. Black / Corbis / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard

What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Activists fight a peat fire in Siberia in September. ALEXANDER NEMENOV / AFP via Getty Images

The wildfires that ignited in the Arctic this year started earlier and emitted more carbon dioxide than ever before.

Read More Show Less
A metapopulation project in South Africa has almost doubled the population of cheetahs in less than nine years. Ken Blum / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Tony Carnie

South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.

Read More Show Less
A new super enzyme feeds on the type of plastic that water and soda bottles are made of, polyethylene terephthalate (PET). zoff-photo / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Scientists are on the brink of scaling up an enzyme that devours plastic. In the latest breakthrough, the enzyme degraded plastic bottles six times faster than previous research achieved, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch