Trump’s EPA targets Russia with new rule

Trump's EPA targets Russia with new rule.

by John Siciliano · August 10, 2018
The Environmental Protection Agency could become part of Trump’s crackdown on Russia by targeting the import of cancer-causing asbestos into the United States.

The EPA said that new regulations to restrict the use of asbestos in the U.S. “would prevent import, including from Russia and anywhere else.”

“Under the proposed [rule], the manufacture (including import) and processing of asbestos would be prohibited, unless EPA approved an application to allow for the manufacture and processing of asbestos in specific cases,” an EPA spokesman told the Washington Examiner.

When enacted, the regulation will be the first time EPA has had the power to restrict the use of asbestos, according to the spokesman. The deadline for public comment on the rule is Friday at midnight.

Russia is of particular interest in the rulemaking because it is the largest global producer of asbestos and the second-biggest exporter of the mineral substance to the U.S., and because its largest asbestos producer, Uralasbest, posted photos to its Facebook page in June showing large shipping pallets with Trump’s face emblazoned on them, apparently bound for the U.S.

The gesture was made to thank the president and former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for supporting the continued use of the substance in America, according to the company.

The activist group Environmental Working Group had circulated the photos in a campaign to pressure the administration to enforce a total ban on asbestos in line with other industrialized countries. Media outlets have reported that the rule could expand the use of asbestos, a narrative the EPA is trying to counter in a new public relations campaign.

The regulation that EPA is proposing requires manufacturers to notify EPA when it uses asbestos. This would require the agency to make a determination on asbestos use on a case-by-case basis, an approach the Environmental Working Group says misses the mark.

“EPA’s proposed significant new use rule is a stopgap and a half-measure,” Melanie Benesh, the environmental group’s legislative attorney, told the Washington Examiner. “EPA should instead be taking swift measures to finally join more than 50 other countries that have banned asbestos.”

EPA pushed back saying the rule would both “restrict” and “prohibit” the use of asbestos, according to an FAQ it issued on Wednesday after EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler called media reporting on the rule “inaccurate.”

“Will EPA’s new regulation allow EPA to restrict new uses?” the first question on the FAQ list asks. It answers with an unequivocal “Yes.”

EPA’s significant new use rule “broadens EPA’s restrictions on asbestos products,” EPA explained. “EPA’s proposed new review process empowers EPA to take action, including prohibiting or limiting its intended use.”

That means that imports from the Russian firm with Trump’s face on its product could be prohibited from importing its products into the U.S.

The EPA FAQ points out that the Obama administration “had the opportunity to propose restrictions on new uses” of asbestos, but chose not to take any action.

Washington Examiner · by John Siciliano · August 10, 2018

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