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E.P.A. Defends Stance on Asbestos

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Environmental Protection Agency officials have told a federal judge that the agency is under no obligation to issue rules regarding asbestos abatement or to follow any specific timetable in its rulemaking proceedings.

The comments were contained in papers filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Sept. 28 in response to a lawsuit by the Service Employees International Union that seeks to force the agency to quickly promulgate rules for determining when asbestos in schools is hazardous and requirements for corrective action. (See Education Week, Sept. 19, 1984.)

In its response, the agency stated that the union had "presented no substantial evidence that the agency's asbestos-in-schools program was not working."

'Not Unreasonably Delayed'

Its action on the asbestos removal problem in schools "has been expeditious and certainly not unreasonably delayed," the agency stated in the district court papers.

The epa noted that it has had only three months in which to consider the union's request for greater regulatory action, and that during that time, "the agency has been administering an active program for asbestos control."

The agency stated that it plans to announce the future direction of its asbestos program this fall. It argued that rulemaking has been hampered by technical difficulties in arriving at "objective verifiable criteria for deciding the degree of potential exposure to asbestos in particular buildings," and by the fact that "no one option for abatement could minimize exposure adequately in all cases."

The agency noted that while it is still considering the seiu's petition for stronger regulations, "a 30-day deadline in this case would be virtually impossible for epa to meet."

The union was expected to respond to epa's statements by the end of last week.--lo

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