5 Inspiring Environmental Lawsuits
October 12, 2020 | Environmental Litigation
The news has become a daily reminder of the effects that global warming is having on the lives of millions of people.
Wildfires, rising water levels, and multiple tropical storms happening in synchronization are just some of the very current threats to the homes, livelihoods, and lives in America alone.
Environmental changes like these can be devastating for anyone caught in their path.
For those of us watching from the safety of our homes and offices, these news reports fill us with a sense of helplessness.
A feeling of wanting to help or wanting to make a difference but not knowing how or, worse still, feeling like effective change is impossible.
The good news is that there are people fighting for effective change – and winning.
Massachusetts Vs. Environmental Protection Agency
In 2007, environmental lawyer James Milkey represented 12 states including Massachusetts in a case against the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).
The petition brought by the plaintiffs sought for the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions produced by motor vehicles and deemed harmful to the environment.
The case was won by the represented states who argued that the EPA had an obligation under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to investigate and monitor harmful emissions.
The EPA had argued that they were not required to act unless further research had been conducted proving the impact of greenhouse gasses (GHG).
After the court ruling, the EPA went on to find that there was a definite and direct threat to public health being caused by six GHG. These are now regulated by the EPA.
Hinkley Groundwater Contamination
Motivated by a spike of illnesses in a small community town, the attorney decided to take investigations into her own hands. Her findings led to the people of Hinkley bringing a class action against Pacific Gas & Electric.
Contamination of groundwater caused by a PG&E plant was found to contain hexavalent chromium a known cause of illnesses including cancer.
The Hinkley Groundwater case went into arbitration and was settled for $333 million.
“What was achieved in this case is now often only associated with the film it inspired and not the positive impact it had on the lives of families.”
Environmental Agencies vs Shell
The Arctic is a dangerous and remarkable place largely unspoiled by man. When Shell announced its intention to drill for oil in the arctic (circa. 2015) it caused outrage and campaigns objecting to Shells intentions were launched.
Activists created kayak flotillas to block a Shell drilling rig from being moved to the Arctic and lawsuits were taken against shell by environmental agencies who joined forces in an effort to prevent the drilling.
Shell brought its own lawsuits in an effort to block those coming against it. It attempts to prevent environmental groups like the Alaskan Wilderness League from suing it, failed.
Shell then announced that it had failed to find sufficient oil in preliminary investigations and stopped drilling in the Arctic altogether.
Disney and Mineral King Valley
This case is 60 years old but as relevant today as it was then as the environment continues to be threatened in the name of progress.
It started when Disney decided to build a ski resort in a tree-lined valley in Nevada called Mineral King Valley.
Disney’s plans would have seen a highway being built, power cables installed, a huge resort built, and millions of annual visitors.
Objections to the plans were led by environmental agency The Sierra Club.
The case was battled for years with much toing and froing. The Sierra Club initially argued that the planned highway would cause too much damage.
The court ruled that The Sierra Club had no standing to sue as it had not shown how any individuals would be negatively impacted.
The Sierra Club set about amending their case and Disney’s plans stayed on hold for over a decade. It would be the 1978 National Parks and Recreation Act that finally put a stop to Disney’s alpine wonderland.
Flint Water Crisis
The Flint Water Crisis devastated the City of Flint for six years, and the negative effects will impact generations to come.
Through no fault of their own, the residents of Flint will suffer with learning disabilities and have to undergo medical treatments for their physical and emotional ailments due to lead exposure.
The City of Flint discovered dangerous levels of lead were leaching into Flint’s drinking water after State and City officials made the decision to replace safe water with a highly corrosive alternative from the Flint River.
Recently a landmark $600 million settlement, subject to court approval, was negotiated by a team of attorneys, including those from Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, on behalf of citizens affected by the contaminated water in Flint, Michigan.
This is the first piece of justice and there is more to come. While the State of Michigan has taken responsibility for its actions, other defendants, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have not.
All of these cases were brought by people who sought to prevent irreparable damage to the environment. They are just a few examples of many.
This is a Guest Post by Michael Dehoyos ,an editor at Assignment Writing Services and OriginWritings. Michael helps organizations review their environmental and social impact and he is also a writer at Dissertation Writing Service.
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