Oklahoma Governor Signs Asbestos Clean-Up Bill

Illustration of legal cases for asbestos and mesothelioma

On Monday, April 20, Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma signed a bill that will clarify the State Department of Labor’s (DOL) role in asbestos removal in buildings and structures. The law removes liability of other parties in private and public facilities and instead positions the Department of Labor as the primary authority for asbestos on job sites.

Similar laws have been set forth by other states, but this bill only applies to Oklahoma as stringent requirements reinforced by federal, state, and local authorities regarding the methods for asbestos handling, removal, and disposal vary state-by-state.

During the asbestos removal process, a contractor is hired typically before an older building is demolished, prior to any maintenance or renovation that could disturb asbestos containing materials or when asbestos containing materials are damaged. Asbestos exposure is a known cause of deadly mesothelioma cancer, so removing damaged asbestos from buildings is paramount to public health.

This asbestos clean-up measure is known as Senate Bill 658 and pertains specifically to private and public facilities, eliminating outdated language surrounding them. Senate Bill 658 was authored by Senator Ron Justice, R- and Representative Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia.

In conjunction with the bill, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will also serve jurisdictional authority in all phases of asbestos cleanup projects from now on.

Fallin claims this legislation will decrease the regulatory burden of asbestos abatement on contractors and developers to protect public health and should aid in the work many communities have put forth restoring the numerous historic buildings and structures that often contain asbestos.

Per recent studies, over 30 million private and public facilities ranging from homes to commercial buildings in the United States alone, contain some type of asbestos-containing product. The only way to truly remove the threat of asbestos exposure and its dangerous health effects is to abate all asbestos from the premises.

Often these facilities contain asbestos that must be removed to protect public health. This legislation, along with the cooperative agreement between the DEQ and DOL, will reduce the regulatory burden on contractors and prevent them from being subjected to multiple inspections by multiple agencies,” said Fallin.

Senate Bill 658 will take effect immediately.