In our June 30, 2023, blog, we shared the news that despite a decline in environmental enforcement under the Biden Administration, the administration anticipates picking up the pace on environmental regulations.
Environmental Justice Focus
On the heels of this news, a recent article in Bloomberg Law states there may be increased Environmental Justice enforcement. David Uhlmann was recently confirmed to serve as the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. According to Bloomberg, companies that violate environmental laws can expect greater scrutiny under Uhlmann. They also state that according to Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, “One of the areas where Uhlmann is most likely to act decisively is environmental justice.”
The article in Bloomberg goes on to say that according to Eric Schaeffer, the EPA’s former director of civil enforcement, “In the context of environmental justice, that could mean ‘moving a little faster’ to, for example, install ‘tons and tons of monitoring’ in communities where high levels of carcinogens are known to exist.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of an increased focus on environmental justice. Earlier this year, it was announced that $29 billion in funding would be available for environmental justice.
While the regulated community anticipate a quickening of the pace of enforcement, there have been some recent cases that are getting attention as well.
$10 Billion Settlement
3M reached a tentative agreement to resolve approximately 4,000 lawsuits filed by public utilities over per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. Most of the lawsuits were attributable to the use of the firefighting foam, Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF). AFFF contained perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).
According to an article in Chemical Engineering and News, “The agreement, which does not resolve personal injury suits, covers about 85–90% of the US water supply…”
However, it was recently reported that 22 attorneys general oppose the 3M settlement saying it lets 3M off too easily.
Earlier the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) stated that PFAS are in 45% of drinking water samples. However, this study has been criticized. One of the criticisms came from the American Council on Science and Health which stated in part:
“Since the USGS study was quite small (less than 2% of the 37,000 samples done by EPA), they could not reach conclusions on PFAS’ national occurrence. Instead, they used models to estimate the national occurrence. These modeled results, not actual data, were the basis for the headlines that PFAS was found in 45% of the nation’s drinking water. The majority of samples did not contain PFAS, with PFOA not detected in 86.2% of the samples and PFOS not detected in 94.0% of the samples” (their emphasis).
$1.19 Billion Settlement
In another billion-dollar PFAS settlement, an agreement was reached with DuPont de Nemours Inc, the Chemours Company, and Corteva Inc.
According to the Press Release by DuPont, the companies, “…announced they have reached an agreement in principle to comprehensively resolve all PFAS-related drinking water claims of a defined class of public water systems that serve the vast majority of the United States population.”
As we were attending a national environmental conference recently, several people said in private discussions, where does this all end? As it stands now, there is no end in sight, and the pending Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) designation of certain PFAS compounds could be very consequential for a wide range of companies.
Also, see our PFAS Resources page.
A Concerning Trend
These are just a couple of the recent environmental enforcement cases that have been settled. There is also growing concern over the uptick in lawsuits as well as overreach related to Environmental Social and Governance.
While enforcement of environmental regulations is important to protect human health and the environment, it’s also important to make sure that the decisions are based on well-grounded science and law.
We can help you with the science of what we have long called our process of critical thinking. And if you need legal counsel, we are happy to provide you with a list of attorneys we have worked with over the past few decades.
For more information, contact Jeffrey Bolin, M.S. at 248-932-0228, Ext. 125.
Dragun Corporation does not use artificial intelligence in drafting our blogs or any other material.
This blog was drafted by Alan Hahn. Alan has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and completed a graduate program in Environmental Management. He has worked in environmental management for 45 years. He has written hundreds of blogs and articles. His published work includes Michigan Lawyers Weekly, Detroiter, Michigan Forward, GreenStone Partners, Manure Manager Magazine, Progressive Dairy, and HazMat Magazine.
The blog was reviewed by Jeffrey Bolin, M.S. Jeff is a partner and senior scientist at Dragun Corporation. He is a published author, frequent speaker, and expert witness. His expertise in environmental due diligence, PFAS, vapor intrusion, and site assessments has led to projects in the US, Canada, and overseas. See Jeff’s Bio.
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