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House Passes Naturally-Occurring Asbestos Bill (HB 258)

Joule’s HB 258 would allow Upper Kobuk area to use own aggregate in capital & other projects, while still safeguarding community & worker health

Thursday, April 5, 2012, Juneau, Alaska – The Alaska House today passed a bill making allowances for the use of gravel aggregate containing naturally-occurring asbestos, which is a boon to communities in Northwest Alaska who’ve been bypassed for capital projects over the past decade due to no easy or affordable access to fill.

Rep. Reggie Joule’s House Bill 258 puts systems and requirements in place to allow for the use of gravel aggregate with naturally-occurring asbestos. The bill directs the Alaska Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities to make and implement regulations and standards contractors must follow when using the aggregate, meaning projects hoping to use it would require public notice, workplace environment controls, employee controls, handling procedures, and more.

“We tried to craft a balance that meets the needs of a community, with the health of a community. That health concern has to be at the forefront,” Joule, D-Kotzebue, said. “Asbestos is naturally-occurring in the Upper Kobuk region, so they’ve been basically shut down for any capital projects because of it – so what we’re saying is if the percentage is .24, then its gravel aggregate.

“What it really does at the end of the day is gives hope to some of the projects that have been waiting in my district for the past ten years. It allows an area to say, voluntarily, that they have an area with naturally-occurring asbestos, and ask the state to give them a delineation zone – or the state can just do it too,” Joule said. “When a community requests it, they’d have to pay for the testing.”

HB 258 now moves to the Alaska Senate for consideration.

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