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The Little Known Act that is a Huge Threat to Public Safety

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On January 11, 2017, as the public focused on other topics such as healthcare reform and cabinet confirmations, the U.S. House of Representatives quietly passed the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017.[1]  Contrary to its stated purpose of streamlining regulations and eliminating red-tape, the act would make it nearly impossible to pass regulations intended to keep the public safe.  According to consumer groups, the act could be more properly named the “Filthy Food Act”[2] or the “Regulatory Protection Prevention Act.”[3]

Disturbingly, the Regulatory Accountability Act would resurrect certain features of the old law that thwarted the EPA’s attempts to ban asbestos in 1991.[4]  Although most people believe the use of asbestos to be illegal in our country, the EPA’s attempted ban under the Toxic Substances Control Act was struck down by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1991.[5]  To this day, no ban has ever gone into effect.[6]

Under a recently amended version of the TSCA, the EPA announced last December its intention to further evaluate its regulations on asbestos.[7]  Although many groups hope that this might finally lead to an outright asbestos ban,[8] that result seems unlikely if the Regulatory Accountability Act becomes law.  Although the title makes the bill sound harmless, it will dramatically affect the EPA’s proper function.[9]

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[1] https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5.

[2] http://www.foodqualitynews.com/Regulation-and-safety/Groups-slam-Regulatory-Accountability-Act.

[3] https://news.utexas.edu/2017/02/03/regulatory-accountability-act-threatens-health-and-safety.

[4] https://www.theregreview.org/2017/03/29/roberts-misguided-regulatory-accountability-act/.

[5] Corrosion Proof Fittings v. E.P.A., 947 F.2d 1201 (5th Cir. 1991).  The full opinion is available online at http://www.law.uh.edu/faculty/thester/courses/Environmental%20Law%202016/Corrosion%20Proof%20Fittings%20v%20EPA.pdf.

[6] https://www.asbestos.com/legislation/ban.php.

[7] https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-names-first-chemicals-review-under-new-tsca-legislation.

[8] http://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/archives/42185.

[9] http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/03/the-coming-gop-assault-on-regulations-000351.

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