Today, Congressman Bill Owens announced he has put forward his first piece of legislation in the 113th Congress, the "Common Sense Waiver Act" (H.R. 204). The bill is a reintroduction of legislation from the 112th Congress Owens authored in response to a situation involving an asbestos-contaminated building in Malone, New York.
"Since coming to Congress, I've worked to help fix or eliminate government regulations that just don't make sense," said Owens. "This legislation represents another opportunity to do exactly that."
In 2011, Congressman Owens was contacted by officials in the Village of Malone who expressed concern over a building, formerly "Nicci's Place," in severe disrepair. The village sought to demolish the building, fearing it would collapse, but lacked sufficient funding to do so because of costs and regulations associated with demolishing a building that contains asbestos.
As a result, village leadership sought financial assistance to demolish the building, and Congressman Bill Owens reached out to the EPA on their behalf. EPA responded that no such funding was available, but neither could they waive the expensive, asbestos-related regulations preventing Malone from demolishing the building themselves. The building subsequently collapsed, at which point EPA stepped in to assist with the cleanup.
The Common Sense Waiver Act would give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) flexibility at the front end to waive certain costly regulations governing the demolition of a building contaminated with asbestos. To qualify, a building must be condemned and have a reasonable expectation of structural failure.
"Current regulations say if a town or village can't afford to demolish a building that contains asbestos, their only course of action is to let it fall down," said Owens. "That means higher costs and greater risk to public safety, which simply doesn't make sense. This legislation gives EPA the flexibility to make a decision based upon the merits of each individual case where appropriate."