Posted May 28, 2021 by Lloyd Landreth
Being the Husband and Father of 3 medical professionals who have been on the front-lines of COVID-19, I am the last person to make a joke of the pandemic. At the same time, like many of you, I am worn-slick with the 24-7 coverage. So much so, that I have over the past year gone in and out of banning myself from news media and social media. However, I have occasionally indulged myself when I have made some particularly unwise decision or ill-advised action by stating that I am blaming my bad form on the ‘Rona.
Particularly over the past year due to the elections and otherwise, we as environmental law practitioners, and also as taxpayers and supporters of our economy, have come face to face with the following that I have not found a way to blame on the ‘Rona:
- PFAS and other “emerging contaminants”
- ESG/Shared Prosperity
- Environmental Justice/New Green Deal/Global Warming – GHG
Starting with PFAS/Emerging Contaminants, and acknowledging some of these topics are years in the making, I offer some perspectives by way of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The emerging contaminants such as PFAS and 1,4 dioxane, are regulated or soon to be regulated substances which will be considered public health and potential environmental risks at part per trillion concentrations. Further, these substances are ubiquitous, and in many cases state and federal governments, including agencies such as the Department of Defense, are major PRPs. As we delve into these issues, knowing that we all care about protection of the environment, my question to you is, “Who is going to pay for remediation to part per trillion concentrations?”
As to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and the related concept of “Shared Prosperity”, we as environmental law practitioners support the concept of corporate responsibility to protect and benefit the environment and to operate in a fiscally and socially-responsible manner. Shared Prosperity takes ESG a step further in somewhat mandating expenditures (sharing) organizational wealth, especially when the organization is seeking approvals for a new project or improvements to an existing project. I have a similar question for you, “If ESG and Shared Prosperity concepts are here to stay, how do we as environmental lawyers help guide the process and parameters so that we can impart some objectivity and fairness into any requirements?”
As to Environmental Justice/NGD/GHG/Global Warming, there is some nexus between these programs/regulations/interests and the previous two topics. As members of the ACOEL, we have a role in escorting these programs/regulations/interests through the social and regulatory process and dialogue. My concern is that this category of environmental topics represents avenues for litigation against many of our clients who have made very good-faith efforts, including significant investments, over the past several decades to both right the wrongs of prior days’ activities, as well as make environmental protection and enhancement a key pillar of their business. My question for you is, “How do we, as environmental lawyers, work together to prevent or mitigate frivolous or meritless litigation that only benefits Plaintiff counsel and their related “science” teams and investors, while often having little or no benefit to those who may have actually been harmed?” Since this is a blog, I do not have to have the answers to my questions (although having answers may result in my having “followers” and being a “influencer”). I suppose my answer in-part is the ACOEL, in that as a collective we represent such a broad range of career types, ages and interests. I would submit that each of these categories have as a foundation some very real environmental issues that cannot be ignored. At the same time, especially for ACOEL members, it is incumbent upon us to weave into these issues some common sense, civility and reasonable goals every chance we get. I welcome such a dialogue when we are privileged to get to meet face to face in 2021 and beyond.