Rep. Owens reintroduces legislation to waive some asbestos regulations for condemned buildings
Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 9:15 am

Congressman Bill Owens’ first legislative proposal for the 113th Congress reintroduces a bill from last session that he wrote in response to a tough situation faced by the owners of an asbestos-contaminated building in Malone.

The bill, known as the “Common Sense Waiver Act” (H.R. 204), would give the Environmental Protection Agency flexibility to waive some costly regulations governing the demolition of an asbestos contaminated building. To qualify, the building would have to be condemned and have a reasonable expectation of structural failure.

“Current regulations say if a town or village can’t afford to demolish a building that contains asbestos, their only course of action is to let it fall down,” said Owens. “That means higher costs and greater risk to public safety, which simply doesn’t make sense. This legislation gives the EPA the flexibility to make a decision based upon the merits of each individual case where appropriate.”

The bill was written in response to an incident in Malone in 2011. Officials in the village contacted Owens to express concern regarding a building, formerly known as “Nicci’s Place,” that was in severe disrepair. The village wished to demolish the building, but lacked sufficient funds to do so due to the costs associated with demolishing a building containing asbestos.

As a result, village leadership sought financial assistance to demolish the building, and Owens reached out to the EPA on behalf of the village. The EPA responded that no such funding was available, nor could they waive the expensive, asbestos-related regulations preventing Malone from demolishing the building themselves.

The building subsequently collapsed, at which point the EPA stepped in to assist with the cleanup.

“Since coming to Congress, I’ve worked to help fix or eliminate government regulations that just don’t make sense,” said Owens. “This legislation represents another opportunity to do exactly that.”