Cuyahoga Land Bank Leads Charge On EPA Asbestos Regulation

The Cuyahoga Land Bank has become a leader in the demolition of vacant and abandoned blighted properties in Cuyahoga County. The Land Bank does this on a strategic basis as well as a function of managing County-wide distressed properties owned by HUD, Fannie Mae and various large banks.asbestos_floor
The Cuyahoga Land Bank has demolished more than 800 properties utilizing state-of-the-art procurement practices, asbestos abatement and land transaction practices.
Because of the rules and findings of the U.S. EPA and Congressional oversight committees, the demolition of one-to -four family structures have not required expensive asbestos consultants and surveys in order to identify obvious presence of asbestos in pipe wrap, transite and glazing, for example. This rule and these findings have been in existence since the 1970s, that is until November, 2010.
Though neither these rules nor the science which underpins these findings has changed, U.S. EPA in November, 2010 re-interpreted the existing one-to-four family exemption as no longer applying. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs to demolish properties. Most cities are begrudgingly complying with this re-interpretation of existing U.S. EPA regulation. The Cuyahoga Land Bank’s legal staff conducted a full analysis of the regulations and rule making process and determined that this re-interpretation was both inaccurate and instituted without following proper rule-making processes.asbestos_room
As a result, the Cuyahoga Land Bank began a long process of advocacy with officials from Ohio EPA, Senators Robert Portman and Sherrod Brown which included bi-monthly conference calls with land banks and cities throughout Ohio. On these conference calls were officials from Lucas, Hamilton, Mahoning, Montgomery, Cuyahoga and Franklin counties all attesting to the negative impact this re-interpretation had on urban cities and land banks throughout the State. These rules not only resulted in unnecessary and excess costs added to the demolition process, but also added delay to the urgent need to demolish blighted properties that have been vexing neighbors, police and fire safety forces charged with managing the risks and criminal activity associated with vacant and abandoned properties.
These discussions have, in turn, resulted in the Ohio EPA’s decision to re-evaluate the residential exemption. Additionally, Representative Steven LaTourette introduced legislation which passed the House Appropriations Committee which would restrict U.S. EPA from enforcing this costly re- interpretation.
Land Bank President and General Counsel Gus Frangos indicated that this re-interpretation constituted regulatory overreach and was impeding legitimate efforts of cities and land banks to deal with neighborhood safety and neighborhood blight. High level U.S. EPA officials, Senators Portman, Brown and Representative LaTourette are searching for ways to reach a suitable consensus on these regulations. These rules are currently costing the Cuyahoga Land Bank in excess of $800,000 in unfunded mandate costs from the U.S. EPA. Frangos said, “The re-interpretation is unnecessary as a practical matter because homes with asbestos in the wrapping, transite and glazing are all visible and are removed anyway. There is virtually no dangerous exposure resulting in these scattered demolitions being conducted by the Cuyahoga Land Bank and the City.”

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