LANSING, Mich., March 2, 2023 — Majority Floor Leader Abraham Ayiash (D-Hamtramck) alongside state Reps. Denise Mentzer (D-Mt. Clemens), Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit) and Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington) introduced today a six-bill package — House Bills 4185-90 — to protect the public from asbestos air pollution and exposure.
“For years, Michigan has lagged behind in holding bad actors accountable and protecting our families, children and seniors from asbestos,” Aiyash said. “This legislation will take important steps to ensure that contractors are responsibly handling asbestos — especially in the city of Detroit as blighted homes continue to be demolished.”
This legislation was crafted in response to a 2017 Auditor General report of the state of Michigan’s Air Quality Division’s Asbestos Program, which found that the former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality failed to properly monitor building demolitions in which asbestos could be released. The audit also found that insufficient staffing levels prevented the department from conducting oversight to report on inspections and keep track of contractors who violated the law. As a result, local governments were allowed to hire contractors to handle asbestos abatement who had multiple violations or even criminal convictions related to worker and public safety.
“There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. We should not be drastically reducing penalties for companies that put their workers and surrounding communities at risk,” Mentzer said. “This bill package strengthens Michigan’s commitment to the hard workers who are at risk for asbestos exposure. We must repair this process that has endangered the health and safety of Michiganders.”
Asbestos is a carcinogen that causes significant long-term health problems and can lead to fatal diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma, and cancer of the ovaries and larynx for individuals who are exposed. From 2015-19, the most recent data available by the CDC, there were over 15,000 new diagnoses of mesothelioma and 12,431 deaths caused by the disease across the country. Michigan had the sixth-highest number of deaths during that time frame with 508 deaths, while states like New York and Texas, with populations two to three times the size of Michigan, recorded 646 and 698 fatalities, respectively.
“We can’t keep people safe unless we know that the people who are coming in and removing this harmful material are qualified and reliable professionals,” VanderWall said. ”That’s what this legislation is really about: keeping people safe.”
“Ultimately, these bills hold government agencies accountable for making sure they are hiring companies that do things right,” McKinney said. “This bill package is a promise to workers that we stand for their health, safety and well-being.”
“These bills can save lives by promoting better procedures that protect workers’ health.” Ayiash said. “This is the third time this package of bills has been introduced in the Michigan Legislature since the 2017 Auditor General report was released — it’s finally time we get the job done to protect Michiganders from careless asbestos exposure.”
Below is a quick snapshot of the bill package:
- House Bill 4185: Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) Violation Penalty Reductions (Mentzer) — Prohibits MIOSHA from reducing asbestos-related violation penalties by a percentage that is greater than what federal law allows.
- House Bill 4186: Withhold Payment from Contractors with Uncorrected Violations (McKinney) — If a company had more than five violation notices related to environmental regulations in the past year, a contracting government authority with asbestos abatement contractors can withhold payment until they receive written and photographic verification that violations were corrected.
- House Bill 4187: Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, Air Quality Division, Asbestos Inspector Report (Aiyash) — Requires an annual report on the sufficiency of the number of inspectors.
- House Bill 4188: Asbestos Notification Fee (Aiyash) — Institutes a reasonable fee that Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) would charge operators and property owners who submit an asbestos notification or for EGLE to conduct an inspection of the property, at $100 per notification.
- House Bill 4189: Contractor Disclosure (VanderWall) — Requires government entities that contract with asbestos abatement contractors/subcontractors on demolition projects to require contractors to include disclosure of any environmental violations in the past five years.
- House Bill 4190: Background Check for Contractors with Past Violations (VanderWall) — Requires a local government or authority to perform a background check before contracting with an asbestos abatement contractor.