Congressman Cohen Demands EPA Administrator Follow his own Agency’s Recommendation on Asbestos

September 19, 2019
Press Release
Also cites concern over inaction on coal ash contamination

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a member of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, today questioned Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler on his decision in April to disregard the advice of his agency’s own scientists by issuing a rule that restricted but did not ban asbestos. Congressman Cohen led a letter with 33 Congressional colleagues questioning that decision. Wheeler testified that a risk evaluation of asbestos is currently under way. See Congressman Cohen’s exchange with Wheeler here

Congressman Cohen focused his questioning on Administrator’s Wheeler and the EPA’s sidelining its own scientists on a variety issues including on asbestos.  EPA issued a rule on April 17 that did not ban asbestos, despite the recommendation of agency scientists. Asbestos-related deaths cause more than 37,000 deaths a year. Fifty-five other countries have completely banned asbestos. 

“Mr. Wheeler, I appreciate your being here. I’ve been disturbed and alarmed at several actions or inactions that have been taken at the EPA under your leadership. I’m sorry to say that, but it’s true. I’m concerned with how often you have ignored apparently your own professional scientists, seemingly at the expense of people’s lives, in favor of private companies and private profit.” 

Congressman Cohen mentioned that he has been dissatisfied with the handling of coal ash ponds like the ones at the Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis that sits atop the Memphis sand aquifer, Memphis’ groundwater. 

Congressman Cohen said the issue of asbestos regulation is personal to him. In 2003, singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, a personal friend of the Congressman, died from mesothelioma.  He died a year after being diagnosed.