U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, introduced her first bill on Thursday, which would authorize the federal Environmental Protection Agency to waive air quality standards applicable to the control of asbestos in the demolition or renovation of a building that is condemned or there is “a reasonable expectation” of structural failure.
The proposed legislation would establish a 90-day time frame for the EPA to respond to a request from a municipality or state for a waiver, and the waiver would be automatic if the EPA does not make a decision within 90 days.
Stefanik said she introduced the legislation in response to frustration local officials and business leaders in Malone expressed about being unable to demolish a building that has deteriorated to the point it is in danger of falling into a stream.
“One of the concerns that I heard from local elected officials and the chamber of commerce is that they just weren’t hearing back from the EPA, and they were going round and round trying to get the response” she said in a telephone interview. “So we need to hold EPA accountable and make sure that they give timely responses.”
The legislation is similar to a bill that former U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, introduced in a previous session, she said.
“Public process needs to serve the public interest and not confound it, and this act (legislation) is a practical step in that direction and can help North Country communities,” Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, said in a news release.
Stefanik said the proposed legislation does not address state Department of Labor and state Department of Environmental Conservation oversight of buildings with asbestos.
“That’s an example where I’d have to work with our state senators and state assemblymen to try to address this issue,” she said. “But representing this district in Congress, I want to make sure that at the federal level, we’re able to apply for waivers at the EPA, because that has been a stumbling block to address this specific building in Malone.”
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., co-sponsored the legislation — H.R. 2560 — known as the Common Sense Waiver Act.
“We’re working with other (congressional) offices to get their support,” Stefanik said.