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E.P.A. To Decide on School Program

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In federal district court last week, a lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency said the epa plans to make a decision on the future nature of its school-asbestos program by Nov. 30.

At that time, said Alan H. Carpien, epa officials will decide whether or not to pursue new regulations regarding asbestos in the schools, and, if they decide to proceed, what the general timeline for issuing those regulations would be.

Preliminary Injunction

The lawyer's comments came during a hearing called by Judge John Garrett Penn of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a suit brought by the Service Employees International Union to require the agency to issue regulations and a timetable for rulemaking to require asbestos cleanup in schools. (See Education Week, Sept. 19, 1984.)

The union argues that the agency is required to issue such rules under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 and indicated five years ago that it would implement a regulatory program but has not done so.

By the end of last week, Judge Penn had not yet ruled on the union's request for a preliminary injunction requiring the agency to act within 30 days. The epa recommended that the judge not move for-ward with a hearing on the merits of the union's case until after Nov. 30.

The union's lawyers criticized the agency's pledge to act by Nov. 30 as a vague, "secret plan" for taking care of the asbestos problem.

Worker Protections

At the hearing, the union's lawyers also requested that the court order the epa to institute immediately standards currently used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for protecting workers who may be exposed to asbestos in the workplace.

The lawyers also argued that the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Act of 1984 requires the epa to issue within the next few months standards regarding the level of hazard posed by asbestos in schools; abatement procedures for schools to follow; the qualifications of those who perform abatement activities; and standards for worker protection.

The seiu lawyers stated that they would like these standards to be applied across the board to all schools, not just those that receive funds under the act.

The epa's lawyers argued that the act requires the agency to provide guidance and technical assistance--not regulations.

The union is also asking the epa to issue rules requiring schools to take corrective action regarding asbestos in schools.--lo

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