Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog says agency failed to properly monitor asbestos at schools| Watchdog won’t investigate former Superfund head’s qualifications| Florence causes toxic coal ash spill in North Carolina
GOV WATCHDOG FINDS EPA IMPROPERLY MONITORED ASBESTOS AT SCHOOLS: The government watchdog overseeing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the agency failed in its duties to properly monitor asbestos levels at schools.
Between fiscal years 2011 and 2015, the EPA only conducted 13 percent of the school inspections it was responsible for statewide, an EPA Office of Inspector General (IG) report released Monday found.
The EPA’s management of its asbestos monitoring duties paled in comparison to states that ran their own programs, the study also found. States with jurisdiction over their own inspections performed 87 percent of the inspections they were tasked with.
The EPA also significantly reduced — and in some cases eliminated — the resources available for asbestos monitoring, the report found.
In five of the 10 EPA regions, representatives of the agency only monitored schools for asbestos after receiving a complaint or request, a reactive approach the EPA IG office said made it impossible to know “whether schools pose an actual risk of asbestos exposure to students and personnel.”
Asbestos is a cancer- and mesothelioma-causing mineral that is frequently found in building supply fibers. It’s especially harmful to children.
An EPA spokesperson blamed failures under the Obama administration for the lack of monitoring at schools.
“The previous administration did not do enough to provide adequate protections to children from asbestos exposure. The Trump administration is taking proactive steps to reduce asbestos exposure, which includes a new proposed regulation that, for the first time, would prohibit the currently unregulated former uses of asbestos,” EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said in a statement.
Why it matters: A 2016 law gave the EPA new authority to prohibit the carcinogen. The agency in June came under criticism for its new plans. Critics feared EPA’s new proposal would open the door to widespread uses of asbestos. EPA officials have ardently denied the accusations, saying the proposed regulations would effectively ban the substance.
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WATCHDOG WON’T INVESTIGATE FORMER SUPERFUND LEADER’S QUALIFICATIONS: The EPA’s Office of the Inspector General will not investigate weather EPA’s former head of Superfunds was unqualified for the job, according to a letter sent by IG head Arthur Elkins to Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) dated Sept. 13.
Beyer first requested the IG look into EPA’s Albert Kelly in late April. It was first reported last December that Kelly was banned from working in the banking sector for life.
Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt hired Kelly as an adviser for the Superfund program shortly before the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) settled unknown allegations against Kelly by banning him from banking.
Kelly resigned from the post in May.
“As Mr. Kelly and Mr. Pruitt are no longer with the EPA, we will not be reviewing the above concerns regarding Mr. Kelly’s qualifications for an EPA job,” Elkins wrote.
HURRICANE FLORENCE CAUSES TOXIC COAL ASH SPILL: Flooding from Hurricane Florence caused a pair of coal ash spills from a site near a power plant in North Carolina.
Duke Energy Corp. announced the first spill at the L. V. Sutton Power Station near Wilmington Saturday night, saying about 2,000 cubic yards of coal ash had been released.
It said rains caused a slope collapse, displacing the ash, which contains heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium and mercury, potentially into the nearby Cape Fear River. Coal ash is not considered hazardous, but is harmful to ecosystems and humans.
The volume is enough to fill about 180 dump trucks, or two thirds of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
“The majority of displaced ash was collected in a perimeter ditch and haul road that surrounds the landfill and is on plant property,” Duke said in a statement. The company reported the spill to federal and state authorities.
Reggie Cheatham, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Emergency Management, told reporters Monday that the second spill occurred late Sunday at the same plant, and officials don’t know its volume.
But Duke took issue with the EPA’s characterization, saying what it described as a second spill was really just part of the first.
“This is all part of the same erosion event from heavy rains, but does not represent a second slope failure,” Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan told Bloomberg News.
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OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check out stories from Monday and over the weekend…
-Gov Watchdog: EPA failed to properly monitor asbestos at schools
-Florence causes coal ash spills in North Carolina
-Nation’s oldest nuclear power plant shuts down
-Big-game hunters infuriated by Trump elephant trophy debacle
-Nearly 1 million lose power as Florence crawls through Carolinas
-Trump approves North Carolina disaster declaration for Florence
-California to launch its own climate satellite in response to Trump