“Trump Is On Our Side”: Russian Asbestos Enjoying Flush Times With Trump
Russian asbestos company Uralasbest was thrilled to hear last year that President Donald Trump was looking to relax asbestos regulations in the United States, even going so far as to stamp his image on pallets of its product.
Uralasbest chairman Vladimir V. Kochelayev told The New York Times in April that “Trump is on our side.”
And indeed, under Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency made changes to the rules surrounding asbestos — which Quartz noted used to be “a common feature of drywalling, fireproofing, and a wide variety of other kinds of construction” until its carcinogenic properties were discovered.
But the EPA insists that the changes do not mean a return to the old days, when asbestos was used with abandon. “The new protocol for asbestos regulation identifies 15 specific uses deemed risky enough to trigger a federal review, rather than leaving it open to all possible uses,” Quartz reported last year.
The rule change is not intended to make asbestos easier to use but critics fear this is the effect the change will have.
Uralasbest seems to be hoping for such an outcome. It remains one of few asbestos producers left in the world and would benefit nicely if Trump were to follow through any further with relaxing environmental or health regulations — which he tends to view as “assaults on business, liberty, and common sense,” Quartz noted.
In 2018, the U.S. imported 750 tons of asbestos, compared to 803,000 tons in 1973.
But the hoped-for turn-around has yet to materialize. Andrei Kholzakov, the former mayor of Asbest, Russia, where Uralasbest asbestos is mined and processed, told The Times “that hopes of a turnabout in American policy had been disappointing so far.”
Nevertheless, because Trump has spent his years in construction, Kholzakov believes he “understands the reality of asbestos better than other people.” And that gives the asbestos lobbyist hope for making asbestos great again.