The EPA is on the cusp of a settlement with anti-asbestos activists, one that eventually would require asbestos importers to once again report exposure and use data.

During a virtual court hearing April 15, a Justice Department representative announced that the EPA has reached an agreement in principle to settle with the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and other entities that sued the agency over its regulation of asbestos.

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), companies that produce or import toxic chemicals must disclose exposure and use data to the agency as specified by the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule. Asbestos was one such chemical until the agency exempted it from the requirements in 2017.

ADAO and like-minded advocacy groups sued the agency after it rejected a 2018 petition to restore asbestos to the CDR. Numerous states joined the effort in 2019.

Rulemaking Incoming

The framework settlement was disclosed during a brief hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen. Justice Department representative Debra Carfora informed the judge that the proposed deal includes a rulemaking under TSCA Section 8(A), which spells out the EPA’s authority to order “manufacturers (including importers) and processors of chemical substances to maintain records and/or report such data as EPA may reasonably require,” according to the agency’s website.

Details about the timeframe for introducing such a rule were not discussed during the seven-minute hearing, with Carfora noting only that the rule would be issued “on the schedule that the parties have agreed to.”

According to Carfora, the Justice Department has been negotiating with the ADAO and the states “over the past six weeks” and is “at a point where we believe we have an agreement in principle to move forward that resolves this matter.”

Coming Soon

When Judge Chen asked for a timeframe for the deal, Carfora estimated that all parties would have something ready for him in less than a month.

“At this point, it’s really just a matter of wordsmithing,” she said. “The settlement framework is done and the language is pretty much done.”

Robert Sussman, who represents the ADAO, told the judge that the group sees the deal as “acceptable” and “meeting our objectives.”

In an ADAO release posted hours after the meeting, organization President Linda Reinstein cheered the deal, saying that CRD reporting “is necessary to understand and address the risks of asbestos and protect public health.”

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