US govt. claims immunity from dozens of PFAS lawsuits

US govt. claims immunity from dozens of PFAS lawsuits, citing Federal Tort Claims Act

The following story is from Reuters.

The United States government has asked a federal judge to dismiss more than two dozen lawsuits filed against it for allegedly contaminating water and soil at hundreds of sites near military bases and facilities across the country with toxic “forever chemicals.”

The U.S. told a federal judge in Charleston, South Carolina, late Monday that it is immune to the lawsuits filed by state and local governments, businesses and property owners who say the U.S. military is liable for property and environmental damage caused by its use of firefighting foams containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

PFAS are used in hundreds of consumer and commercial products including the firefighting foams, non-stick pans, stain-resistant clothing and cosmetics, and have been linked to cancer and hormonal dysfunction. The military has used PFAS-containing firefighting foams since the 1970s for things like firefighting training.

The chemicals are often referred to as forever chemicals because they do not easily break down in nature or in the human body.

The 27 lawsuits were filed in the past six years against the U.S. government by states including New Mexico, New York and Washington, cities, private property owners and local businesses near military facilities where firefighting foams were used.

The plaintiffs say they are seeking potentially hundreds of billions of dollars in damages to pay for groundwater and soil remediation near military sites across the country. Some businesses among the plaintiffs, including a dairy that claims PFAS-contaminated water caused its cattle to die and a property owner whose blueberry cropland was allegedly damaged by the chemicals, are also seeking punitive damages.

The government said it was immune to the lawsuits under a provision of the Federal Tort Claims Act that protects it from tort liability for the discretionary acts of government employees. That law allows plaintiffs to sue the U.S. government for damages only if the government violates specific, mandatory policies.

In its motions to dismiss, the government said the plaintiffs have not identified specific PFAS handling regulations or restrictions that were violated, and that military policy actually encouraged the use of the firefighting foams that contained PFAS for decades since it is very effective at extinguishing jet fuel fires.

Paul Napoli, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, called the arguments “misguided” on Tuesday and said environmental stewardship and accountability “must prevail over legal technicalities” that will prolong suffering and environmental degradation near the contaminated sites.

Napoli said there are specific policies at individual bases or military sites the plaintiffs believe were violated, which would undermine the government’s exemption claims.

Last year, the sprawling litigation led to two landmark settlements between U.S. water systems and major chemical companies including 3M, DuPont de Nemours, Chemours and Corteva worth more than $11 billion for cleanup of U.S. drinking water supplies.

Link to article here.

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4 thoughts on “US govt. claims immunity from dozens of PFAS lawsuits, citing Federal Tort Claims Act”

  1. President Biden is handing out money to everybody except U.S. citizens. if this was President Trump the media and the left would be screaming about it. We wouldn’t know about it except for Sharyl’s reporting.

  2. I can understand the “governmental immunity” argument, but to just dismiss the lawsuit which caused damages that might have been due to reckless or intentional negligence (without the giving the plaintiff the right to present the arguments against the military’s dumping is egregiously unfair and dismisses the reason why this country was founded: viz Overweening Government Intrusion by the British Government in 1776, by the US Federal Government today.
    I hope this kind of overweening hubris that the Federal Government practices is not dismissed-and if it is I hope the Appeals Courts (or the Supreme Court) dresses down the original judge who dismissed the case.

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