Or . . . What Would the Environment Be Like Without Trial Lawyers?
This is another in my "what would life be like without trial lawyers?" (and jury trials) series. Glad everyone is enjoying it.
More than 50 million people in the United States live with unhealthy air. Even after the Congress passed the Clean Air Act, corporations continue to pollute the air we breathe with chemical and carcinogenic poisons ranging from arsenic to zinc. In the face of weak federal enforcement, regardless of administration, it's been trial lawyers who've led the fight, seeking justice against all the odds for communities such as the cancer ridden town of Globeville, poisoned by the cadmium-spewing smelter that rose above it for 100 years.
For decades, corporations handling waste disposal and hazardous materials have targeted low income communities as locations for processing plants, dumps and landfills. State and federal agencies were of no help, routinely allowing permits for sites in economically vulnerable communities without any oversight. Trial lawyers have worked on behalf of targeted communities, such as Camden, New Jersey, which was forced to accept an industrial plant producing over a million tons of hazardous waste a year in a neighborhood already marked by fifteen (15) contaminated sites. Trial attorneys were successful on behalf of the City of Camden and continue to stand up on behalf of many other similar communities.
Incidences such as the Exxon Valdez disaster and BP's Deep Water Horizon debacle have poured billions of gallons of oil into water ways worldwide. Trial lawyers worked for two decades to force Exxon to clean up it's mess and have worked to hold BP accountable for it's negligence in the environmental and economic disasters it caused.
Did the government do that? Did the companies police themselves? Of course not. Corporations never voluntarily admit wrongdoing. They have to be forced, by trial lawyers and juries, to do so, not by arbitrators, not by agencies, not by alternative dispute resolution.
As many as 49 million Americans have water supplies that contain unacceptable levels of arsenic, radioactive substances, and coliform bacteria. Trial lawyers were the first to take action in the 1970's, holding Velsicol Corp. accountable from contaminating drinking water in Tennessee with 300,000 barrels of chemical waste. While federal agencies pursue only 3% of the more than 23,000 companies that violate federal law by contaminating rivers, streams and ground water sources, it continues to be trial lawyers who offer the best protection of America's water supply.
US Corporations produce more than 25 billion pounds of hazardous waste every year. Nearly half a billion pounds of that hazardous waste is so toxic that it will not breakdown in the environment ever. In cases such as that of Love Canal, Hooker Chemical Corporation dumped 20,000 chemical waste in an unlined canal and then sold the land to the local school board, endangering children. Time and again, it has been trial lawyers who have worked to stop corporations from dumping toxic waste and to hold them accountable for the injuries they've caused.
Don't fool yourself into thinking that corporations and their political allies - who don't live in the communities they poison - care. Trial lawyers do. And we help juries care.