Here is a chronology of events in the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to regulate asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
October 1979: The EPA issues an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on commercial and industrial uses of asbestos, the first step toward regulation.
May 1981 through March 1983: During the tenure of EPA Administrator Anne M. Burford, the rulemaking process is put on hold while the agency engages in voluntary negotiations with asbestos industry representatives.
April 23, 1984: EPA Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus, in a letter to Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), says the agency's asbestos efforts are back on track. EPA "is proposing to substantially eliminate rather than control asbestos," the letter states, "because we believe that the risks . . . are unreasonable even when asbestos is controlled."
May 14, 1984: EPA forwards its first package of asbestos rules to the Office of Management and Budget. The rules would prohibit the manufacture or distribution of asbestos in cement pipe and fittings, roofing felts, flooring felts and floor tile.
Mid-August 1984: EPA forwards its second package of asbestos rules. These would phase out most production and import of asbestos over 10 years and would ban asbestos clothing.
August through October 1984: OMB and EPA officials discuss the rules in more than 30 meetings and telephone calls. By late October, the discussions are stuck on the question of the rules' costs versus their benefits. OMB officials want the EPA to "discount" health benefits because of the long period of time it often takes for asbestos-related diseases to show up; the EPA strongly objects to the methodology.
Dec. 27, 1984: In a meeting, OMB official Robert Bedell shows A. James Barnes, then EPA's general counsel and soon to be its acting deputy administrator, a briefing book prepared for budget director David A. Stockman. The book includes a three-page legal memorandum asserting that TSCA requires the EPA to give other agencies the first crack at regulating asbestos.
Jan. 18, 1985: Barnes tells EPA Acting Administrator Lee M. Thomas that EPA has no choice but to turn over the regulation of asbestos to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Feb. 1, 1985: Barnes announces that the EPA has withdrawn its proposed asbestos rules and will refer asbestos to OSHA and CPSC.
Feb. 15, 1985: More than 100 EPA employes send Thomas an open letter, calling the action "an insult to our intelligence and to the public's."
March 8, 1985: With criticism mounting and congressional investigations under way, EPA reverses itself again, announcing that it has put the referral decision "on hold" while it studies the legal and policy implications.
March 27, 1985: In a letter to Barnes, OMB official Bedell calls EPA's proposed rules "seriously flawed," and again urges the agency to refer the matter to OSHA and the CPSC.
Oct. 3, 1985: EPA officials say the asbestos rules are still in progress and have not yet been referred to OMB.