Murray’s Asbestos Bill Moves to the House

Regular readers of this column understand and appreciate the struggles of U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). Since 2001, Senator Murray has been fighting for a complete and total ban on asbestos in the United States.

The opposition has been formidable. Corporate lobbyists and their bought-and-paid-for legislators in Congress put up one roadblock after another.

In the end, We The People prevailed. In October of last year, Senator Murray’s bill passed the full Senate. It turned out to be a hollow victory, however; ultimately, it was revealed that in order to get Republicans to stop blocking the bill and appease the locust-like, ever-present plague of lobbyists, the legislation was diluted to the point that it was almost meaningless.

Since then, asbestos-containing toys showed up on store shelves, and more asbestos clay has turned up in public school art classes–and constituents got understandably enraged. While the lobbyist plague continues to infest the halls of Congress, We The People have been applying our own pressure.

On Thursday, 28 February 2008, the House Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials introduced its own bill to ban asbestos. If passed, this bill will:

  • ban the sale of asbestos-tainted vermiculite, talc and taconite
  • require greater regulation and increased scrutiny of vermiculite and taconite mines
  • remove the burden of creating regulation from the EPA
  • ban all new uses of asbestos
  • ban the importation of asbestos and asbestos-containing products

Of course, the deadly disease of “lobbyitis” is still virulent inside the Beltway, so passage of the bill is by no means assured. In addition, it could conceivably be several months before Congress will even take up the bill for a vote, after which it will go on to a conference committee in order to reconcile it with the Senate version.

It may still be years before the U.S. joins the “grown-up” nations of the world in enacting a comprehensive ban on asbestos. Nonetheless, it appears that Senator Murray’s efforts may not have been totally in vain after all.

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