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Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing:  Beware Polluters’ “Science”

Pennsylvania Environmental Attorneys discuss delaying tactics by corporations accused of environmental concerns including water contamination. By Gerald J. Williams, Esquire

“Responsible Science Policy Coalition.”  Sounds like a serious, fact-driven effort to promote sound government responses to environmental problems, right?  You’d be excused for thinking that, but you’d be wrong.

The “Responsible Science Policy Coalition” is actually a lobbying organization funded primarily by 3M Corporation, and its primary purpose is to delay or derail long overdue regulation of the perfluorinated compounds [“PFCs”] 3M manufactured for decades.  PFCs now contaminate broad swaths of the nation’s soil and water, and the persistent bioaccumulative chemicals are found in the blood of most Americans.  Only in recent years has the dangerous nature of PFCs ̶ toxic in concentrations in the parts per trillion range  ̶  begun to be understood.  Their adverse health effects, including associations with thyroid disease, cancers, ulcerative colitis and immune dysfunction, were long hidden through corporate coverups.

As knowledge of the harm done by PFCs to the environment and public health grows, 3M and other manufacturers and industrial users of the chemicals face the prospect of financial liability in the form of fines and damages awards in lawsuits.  Recently, for example, 3M agreed to pay the State of Minnesota $850 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the state’s attorney general to collect natural resource damages.  Citizens across the country have brought lawsuits seeking monetary damages for PFC-related drinking water contamination, property damage, and personal injury [Full Disclosure:  Williams Cedar is among the law firms representing plaintiffs exposed to PFCs in New York and New Jersey].  The “Responsible Science Policy Coalition” is designed to limit its corporate funders’ liability by minimizing or denying the risks posed by PFCs, and attacking the scientists revealing those risks.

This is an old tactic.  Cigarette companies, lead paint manufacturers and climate-denying energy companies have perfected it over many years.  They have the financial resources to foster a paid-for body of academic opinion to counter studies demonstrating the dangerous nature of their products or the conditions they create.  What they want is a state of uncertainty, in which no firm conclusions seem reasonable, even when devastating effects are unfolding in plain view.  This, they hope, will distract legislators, regulators and judges, delay legal enforcement of standards and hamstring the efforts of injured parties to obtain compensation in the courts.  An informed public, armed with the facts  ̶  including those brought to light in lawsuits  ̶  is the only antidote for this corporate flim-flam.

The Pennsylvania environmental attorneys of Williams Cedar handle a wide variety of toxic tort matters.  If you believe that your drinking water, property or health has been harmed by PFOA or other PFCs, please contact us for a free consultation at 215-557-0099 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we assist clients nationwide.