The Detroit Free Press reports
that the City of Detroit
began demolition of buildings without testing for asbestos. Asbestos, a
carcinogen, was used extensively as a building material and is present in many
older buildings. During demolition, small particles of asbestos can become
airborne unless safety precautions are followed as prescribed by federal law. According
to Robert McCann, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
and Environment, "The city also failed to notify the state of its demolition
plans as required by federal law, which is another serious violation." In light
of the serious nature of the alleged violation of state and federal asbestos
laws, it is remarkable that McCann goes on to say he thinks the DNRE and the
City of Detroit can work things out without penalties. His statement smacks of
a double standard. If these serious violations were perpetrated by a private
business, it is highly unlikely that DNRE officials would be so lenient.
It is disturbing that Detroit City
officials and its contractors would flagrantly disregard well-known
environmental laws regarding the removal of asbestos. It is more disturbing
that state environmental regulatory officials seem to be applying different
enforcement standards to government agencies and the private sector.
Environmental regulatory standards must be enforced fairly and uniformly —
anything less leads to regulatory uncertainty, further reinforcing Michigan's
reputation as a difficult place to do business. Let's hope McCann just
Permission to reprint this blog post in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author (or authors) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy are properly cited.