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Asbestos Fund

Senate Debates Asbestos Bill, But Measure Faces Strong Opposition

by Bette Hileman
February 13, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 7

Asbestos legislation is finally being debated in the Senate, but it still faces many hurdles before a possible final vote.

The bill, the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2005, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last May. It would remove asbestos lawsuits from the courts and create a $140 billion trust fund financed by defendant companies and their insurers to compensate asbestos victims.

Many Democrats and some Republicans say the trust fund is not nearly large enough to compensate all the victims and taxpayers will end up paying much of the cost. To bolster their case, on Feb. 8 opponents of the bill released an analysis by the Senate Budget Committee that says the fund will likely face a $150 billion shortfall.

The White House has expressed lukewarmsupport for the bill. In a statement, the Office of Management & Budget said, "Despite serious concerns over certain provisions," OMB "looks forward to working with Congress in order to strengthen and improve this important legislation."

Victim advocates, trial lawyers, and some unions also oppose the legislation, contending that it defines victims too narrowly by limiting claimants to those who were exposed at work.

As C&EN went to press, the Senate was poised to consider a "poison pill" amendment that could effectively kill the bill. The measure would greatly expand the definition of asbestos victims to include people exposed at home or in communities near asbestos-processing plants.


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