Federal Courts impose final judgements on release of asbestos during renovation project



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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (PRESS RELEASE) – Federal courts have imposed final judgments on two defendants in connection with the unlawful release of asbestos during a commercial renovation project in Cheyenne in 2015. The project involved the building at 2100 Pioneer Avenue, which Dr. Richard S. Cutler had purchased for use as a dental office. Despite a prior inspection that confirmed the presence of asbestos in the building, Dr. Cutler’s contractor, Jacob Lee Davis, began renovation work at the building without conducting proper abatement or taking various other measures required by federal law and regulations. A subsequent investigation by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed several workers had been exposed or potentially exposed to asbestos during the renovation project.

“The results in these cases demonstrate the Department of Justice’s commitment to protecting public health and safety,” said U.S. Attorney Mark A. Klaassen. “The defendants in these cases caused asbestos to be released, which presented a serious health threat to workers,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lance Ehrig of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, Denver Area Office. “The prosecutions in these cases further demonstrate EPA’s commitment to the protection of human health and the environment,” Ehrig said.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming prosecuted Davis and Dr. Cutler in related federal cases. Ultimately, Davis pled guilty to knowingly violating and causing others to violate asbestos work practice standards,in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2(b) and 42 U.S.C. §7413(c)(1). On June 9, 2020, the Honorable Scott W. Skavdahl sentenced Davis to three years of supervised probation, a $9,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. On September 8, 2020, the court amended Davis’ judgment to reflect his agreement to pay $2,225 restitution. Meanwhile, Dr. Cutler pled guilty to negligently causing the release of asbestos, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §2 and 42 U.S.C. §7413(c)(4). On August 26, 2020, the Honorable Kelly H. Rankin sentenced Dr. Cutler to three years of supervised probation, a $25,000 fine, $2,225 restitution, and a $25 special assessment. As a condition of probation, each defendant must perform 120 hours of community service.

Asbestos is a hazardous air pollutant, and even short-term exposure can increase a person’s risk of health complications. Federal law and regulations impose various obligations on persons responsible for a demolition or renovation project at a facility containing asbestos, depending on the typeand quantity of asbestos involved. In Wyoming, these obligations may include providing written notice to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at least 10 working days before disturbing material that contains asbestos. Any owner or contractor with questions about an asbestos-related project is encouraged to contact DEQ for more information.

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