Environment: March 2004 Archives

Happy birthday, Love Canal

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In Reason, Ronald Bailey fact-checks the New York Times on the purported environmental catastrophe near Buffalo that touched off a hundred copycat toxic-tort episodes as well as the federal Superfund program (Mar. 24).

Arizona court decisions have recently eroded the state's historical immunity from being sued over the actions of wild animals, and wildlife managers have been hit with two big liability payouts: a $2.5 million settlement for a girl mauled by a bear, and a $3 million jury verdict payable to a motorist whose vehicle struck an elk. Tucson attorney Mick Rusing, who defended the state in the bear case, says the cases influenced a recent decision to order mountain lions hunted in Sabino Canyon. "The default position of Game and Fish is now, 'When in doubt, take it out,' " Rusing said. "If the courts and the Legislature are not going to protect these agencies and the people who make the decisions, that's the way it's going to be." Rusing drafted a bill that would have provided immunity to game managers but the bill died "after trial lawyers opposed it and the Game and Fish Commission declined to support it." (Tom Beal, "Bear, elk lawsuits influence lion hunt", Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), Mar. 13)

The un-Brockovich

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Little-known Beverly Hills reporter Norma Zager may be making herself the number one nemesis of glamourpuss toxic-tort-chaser Erin Brockovich-Ellis. Zager, who is with the Beverly Hills Courier, has tenaciously dug into the facts surrounding Brockovich's and employer Edward Masry's wild charges about supposed contamination at Beverly Hills High School (see Jan. 3 and links from there, and our Oct. 2000 treatment). (Eric Umansky, "Muckraker 90210: A Most Unlikely Reporter Nails Erin Brockovich", Columbia Journalism Review -- now there's a magazine we haven't often had a chance to quote favorably--, Mar./Apr.).

Menace of dihydrogen monoxide

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We warned them again and again, and now the California town of Aliso Viejo has moved to take action against this environmental horror. ("SoCal city falls victim to Internet hoax, considers banning items made with water", AP/San Jose Mercury News, Mar. 14).

Oh, working for them

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Two years ago we noted that the Environmental Working Group, a frequent source of anti-business stories in the press, seemed to be rather deeply involved with the litigation biz (see May 23, 2001). The group more recently has come in for sharp criticism from the conservative Capital Research Center (Bonner R. Cohen, "The Environmental Working Group: Peddlers of Fear", Jan.) (PDF)(mentions this site) and from the American Tort Reform Association (also mentions this site).

Looking over EWG's website recently, we noticed a page dated Nov. 17 of last year on the MTBE liability controversy (on which, see Nov. 25). It seems EWG took out big ads in Roll Call and The Hill calling for oil companies to be held liable for underwater spread of the gasoline additive (sample ad in PDF format, linked from Nov. 17 page). On EWG's own webpage (see bottom of left column) appears the following notice: "Advertisements paid for by Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA)". Curiously, that reader advisory didn't appear in the sample ad itself. Wasn't there room to fit it in?

And today EWG released a report that echoes the major assertions of the plaintiff's trial bar on the topic of asbestos, and adds some controversial claims of its own, including a claim that deaths from asbestos-related disease are on the rise. The report doesn't have much to say about perjury mills or about the domination of the asbestos docket by unimpaired claimants. It turns out (as you learn if you reach this page) that the new report "would not have been possible without the financial, intellectual and material support of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA)", and in particular a "grant in the amount of $176,000 from ATLA to the EWG Action Fund." You might almost think there's a pattern here.

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