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Why This Matters: When the EPA cares more about protecting a polluting company and limiting its liability than protecting the innocent victims of that toxic pollution from harm, federal “pre-emption” of state law claims can actually frustrate the intent of the statute — which was to make the polluters pay for the clean up of their toxic contamination. The law also bars victims from “double recovery” and it gives polluters who step up to their responsibility to clean up a site the benefit of finality and an end to litigation. But what happens when the EPA’s settlement is too lax and poor communities are burdened with lingering contamination and health problems? It is unlikely that a rich community would get a raw deal from EPA. But the country is riddled with poor communities that for a myriad of reasons do not get the same level of protection from our environmental laws/agencies. It may be the law, but that does not make it right.
The Supreme Court case involved whether to let stand a Montana Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Opportunity Residents that held that the federal Superfund law does not override this state’s constitutionally guaranteed right to a “clean and healthful environment.” The lawyers for ARCO argued that the community of Opportunity should not be able to use state law to force the company to clean up the site in a way that conflicts with the EPA cleanup plan. They claim that if a community was allowed to impose its “own piecemeal hazardous waste cleanup” it would undermine EPA’s authority to implement a cleanup plan the agency deems appropriate to protect human health and the environment. But that begs the question — what if the EPA does not adequately protect human health and the environment? One of the town residents put it this way to The Post, “We only have one lifetime, and the corporations have forever. We just want our yard to be clean and healthy for our kids.”
To Go Deeper:Click here for an excellent summary of the legal arguments in the case by our pals at SCOTUSblog.
The day after 200 people had to be air rescued by the National Guard from an oncoming wildfire in California, the LA Times reported that “helicopter crews braved dangerous smoke and flames Tuesday to reach more than 100 hikers, campers and other people stranded in remote locations of the Sierra Nevada by the destructive Creek […]
In the heart of summer, hot asphalt in our cities radiates heat at night causing what’s known as the ubran heat island effect. But a new study published in the journal Science Advances that asphalt is releasing more than heat, it’s emitting harmful air pollutants, especially on hot and sunny days. As the New Scientist: […]
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