Now on the Senate floor after being passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in January, the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) of 2017 is a bill that many in the ban asbestos world fear.
The act, which has been floating around in some form or another for about seven years, is being nicknamed the “Regulatory Paralysis Act” by opponents, because it would likely cripple the process for enforcing and issuing regulations which assure that the people of the United States have key protections such as clean air and water, safe places to work, healthy food, and safe consumer products.
Opponents also believe this bill, favored by White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, puts the profits of corporations before public safety by allowing more political and judicial interference.
The language is deliberately vague, opponents point out, and dozens of new procedural requirements have been added to the rulemaking process.
What does that mean to those who advocate a ban on asbestos and other toxic substances? Those who have scrutinized the bill’s language say that if passed, the RAA will make it more difficult for federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the public from toxic substances and harmful chemicals.
“Scales will be tilted in favor of polluters,” said Scott Slesinger, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental group that’s hard at work urging Senators to oppose the bill and stop its passage.
“Americans have long relied on a regulatory system that protects them from existing and emerging threats. The RAA casts this aside for the sake of special interests and makes it impossible to protect the safety of our food, to clean up toxic chemicals in our drinking water, and to stop big polluters from contaminating our air, lakes and rivers,” wrote the NRDC and 13 other environmental organizations in a letter to senators throughout the country.
Other signers of the letter include the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, and the Environmental Defense Action Fund.
Individuals from these and other concerned organizations have stated that the regulatory process under this bill will become so complex that major environmental laws, such as the banning of asbestos, will likely not make it through the system.
That’s a sad statement given that organizations campaigning for a total ban on asbestos in the U.S. were recently feeling good about the possibilities of passing such a law, thanks to the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which became law in 2016.
When that act was passed, asbestos was immediately identified as one of the top 10 chemicals to be reviewed by the EPA, which may have been the first move towards a ban.
Now, individuals touched by asbestos exposure worry that the RAA, along with the new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, may put a stop to those toxic substance reviews.
Even President Donald Trump believes that asbestos was wrongly maligned as a dangerous substance, writing about those beliefs in his 1997 book “The Art of the Comeback”.
Such attitudes leave little hope for advocates campaigning to ban the toxin for good.