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The Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970, with a mission of “research, standard-setting, monitoring and enforcement with regard to five environmental hazards; air and water pollution, solid waste disposal, radiation, and pesticides.” Since then, the EPA has played a critical role in cleaning up toxic waste sites, reducing air pollution, and improving water quality.
But you may have also heard that, recently, the EPA has proposed a new rule to allow expanded use of asbestos. And, generally, much of the history of the EPA over the last 20 months has been about rolling back government involvement in environmental protection, and, thus, a diminished enforcement agenda.
The EPA is not the only bulwark protecting people from environmental hazards. When the regulatory apparatus fails to remedy such hazards, those at risk can still look to the courts.
Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit ordered the EPA to ban the use of chlorpyrifos, a widely-used pesticide that is known to cause adverse health effects in children. The issue came before the courts when the EPA issued an Order in 2017 denying a petition to revoke “tolerances” for the pesticide. Before the Court, the EPA did not dispute that it was not authorized to issue the Order, and instead defended itself arguing that its complete failure to respond to the petition deprived the courts of jurisdiction. The court disagreed.
Another recent example of a court-supplied remedy where the regulatory apparatus fell short occurred in California, where a jury returned a verdict against Monsanto for almost $300 million. There, a school groundskeeper’s exposure to Monsanto’s ubiquitous Roundup weed killer caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. One of Monsanto’s defenses was that the EPA had not determined Roundup to be carcinogenic. Nevertheless, evidence presented to the jury that returned this verdict showed that Monsanto had known for decades that Roundup could cause cancer.
In the early days of the EPA, there was a concern that environmental protection efforts were not compatible with economic development. Those fears have largely proven unfounded, but the arguments persist today. While environmental regulators sometimes tilt in favor of business, scaling back enforcement efforts, the courtroom doors remain open to the victims of environmental hazards.
If you or a loved one has been affected by exposure to toxic chemicals or pesticides, you may have a valid toxic tort claim. Contact the Pennsylvania environmental toxic tort lawyers at Williams Cedar to learn about your legal options. Call 215-557-0099 today to schedule a free consultation or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we represent clients nationwide.
By Chris Markos