Tester Presses EPA Administrator on Asbestos Regulation, Citing Health Issues in Libby

“Up in Libby they’ve been struggling with it…we’ve done some good work up there, but there’s a lot more work to be done”

In a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies hearing this week, U.S. Senator Jon Tester questioned the new EPA Administrator Michael Regan on better asbestos regulation and the potential for an asbestos ban in light of the long-term health effects of the use of the toxic substance in Lincoln County.

Tester opened his line of questions with an anecdote about a man from Libby that had lost 18-20% of his lung capacity from mesothelioma after growing up in the town, noting that tens of thousands of people have died from asbestos-related illness in the United States.

“Do you believe that the EPA has the authority under TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act) to regulate legacy issues of asbestos?” Tester asked Administrator Regan.

“I do… It is one of the top ten [substances] that we’re looking and doing a risk evaluation to determine what regulatory action we should take as it regards to asbestos,” answered Regan.

Tester continued: “Based on that evaluation, you should probably be able to tell me whether asbestos is going to remain on the market, or go off the market. Is that a fair assessment?”

Regan responded: “Once we make that determination of how we regulate it, we’ll be able to answer that question for you.”

Since W.R. Grace closed its Libby vermiculite mine in 1990, more than 200 residents have died and thousands more are suffering from asbestos-related diseases. Clean up efforts began in 2002 when Libby, Troy, and surrounding communities were placed on the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List.

Tester, a vocal advocate for Libby, leads the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, to permanently outlaw the toxic substance. He first introduced the legislation in 2016 and will continue fighting to make sure it becomes law to prevent further administrations from ignoring the science behind asbestos toxicity. Additionally, he has continually fought for asbestos relief in Libby and Lincoln County, securing nearly $2.5 million for asbestos related medical costs and grants for the CARD Clinic, and introducing resolutions to establish National Asbestos Awareness in the first month of April.

You can watch all of Senator Tester’s remarks HERE.