Posts Tagged ‘Prop 65’

“The secretive nonprofit that made millions suing companies over cancer warnings”

Beth Mole at ArsTechnica takes a look at “a little-known nonprofit called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT),” which sued over the lack of California cancer warnings on coffee and has filed many other Prop 65 suits, and its lawyer Raphael Metzger, whom longtime Overlawyered readers have met before. While the organization’s workings have seldom come under scrutiny, one money trail appears to lead to epidemiologist Martyn Smith at Berkeley’s School of Public Health; neither professor nor school responded to Mole’s requests for comment.

Environment roundup

  • EPA reversal on Waters of the United States rule gives power back to states [Andrew Wheeler, Kansas City Star; related Federalist Society video with Donald Kochan and Robert Glicksman; earlier]
  • Even if one concedes that throwaway items generate environmental externalities, it still doesn’t mean laws should ban disposable diapers or other single-use plastics [Ryan Bourne, Telegraph/Cato] “New Jersey Plans a Plastic-Banning Spree” [Christian Britschgi]
  • NYC’s Mayor de Blasio: “we will seize their buildings and we will put them in the hands of a community nonprofit.” [John Sexton]
  • It’s sometimes claimed that NYC’s unusually high cost of constructing public infrastructure arises from its preexisting infrastructure, geology, and high land values, yet other world cities with tougher challenges in each category build at much lower cost [Connor Harris, City Journal]
  • Podcast: Lynne Kiesling lecture on environmental economics [Cato University 2018]
  • Acrylamide follies: “Bid to introduce cancer warnings on breakfast cereal packaging fails in California court” [Legal NewsLine, from July] After public outcry, state of California acted last summer to forestall possible Prop 65 warnings on coffee [New York Times, earlier]

Environment roundup

  • California state agency in charge of Prop 65 enforcement seeks to effectively reverse judge’s recent ruling and exempt naturally occurring acrylamide levels in coffee from need for warning [Cal Biz Lit] Prop 65 listing mechanism requires listing of substances designated by a strictly private organization, spot the problem with that [WLF brief in Monsanto Co. v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment]
  • Yes, those proposals to ban plastic straws are a test run for broader plastic prohibitions [Christian Britschgi, Honolulu Star-Advertiser] Impact on disabled users, for whom metal, bamboo, and paper substitutes often don’t work as well [Allison Shoemaker, The Takeout] Surprising facts about fishing nets [Adam Minter, Bloomberg, earlier]
  • “A closely watched climate case is dismissed; Will the others survive?” [Daniel Fisher on dismissal of San Francisco, Oakland cases] Rhode Island files first state lawsuit, cheered by mass tort veteran Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) [Spencer Walrath/Energy in Depth, Mike Bastasch/Daily Caller]
  • Meanwhile back in Colorado: Denver Post, Gale Norton, other voices criticize Boulder, other municipal climate suits [Rebecca Simons, Energy in Depth, earlier here and here]
  • Waters of the United States: time to repeal and replace this unconstitutional rule [Jonathan Wood, The Hill, earlier on WOTUS]
  • “What you’re talking about is law enforcement for hire”: at least nine state AG offices “are looking to hire privately funded lawyers to work on environmental litigation through a foundation founded by” nationally ambitious billionaire and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg [Mike Bastasch]

Prop 65’s well-oiled lawyer/activist machine

I’m quoted at length in a piece on why California’s Proposition 65, despite public scorn and outrage over cases like the latest on coffee warnings, is so hard to reform.

“The bias is toward listing chemicals just to be cautious even though they probably are not harmful, counting ‘exposures’ such as poker chips and doorknobs that are unlikely to touched in such a way as to transfer relevant amounts of chemicals to the human body, and concentrations that are almost certainly harmless under likeliest-case rather than worst-case scenarios,” Olson said.

The senior fellow said people will nod in agreement when asked if they should be warned of risks to health.

“But every time I start my car and drive it onto the street I create a risk of hitting you as a pedestrian,” Olson said. “Do you have a right to be warned of that risk? Each time, or only once?”

He added the balance of scientific opinion these days leans toward the view that moderate coffee drinking probably provides overall health benefits and maybe even net anti-cancer benefits.

“The idea of putting a cancer warning on such a product is not merely irrelevant to public health goals, but actively in conflict with them,” Olson said.

Much more at the link [Angela Underwood, Northern California Record] And more on the coffee case as well as Prop 65 generally.

California judge: Prop 65 requires warnings on coffee

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle ruled Wednesday that coffee merchants are liable under Prop 65 for not warning of the possible cancer risks of the beverage. I’ve got a write-up at Cato at Liberty noting that the primary problem is with the law itself, jealously guarded by lawyers who make out well from it. Excerpt:

Almost everyone agrees by now that the over-proliferation of warnings makes it less likely that consumers will pay attention to those few warnings that actually flag notable risks. …

What happens next? As the Post reports, “In addition to the warning signs likely to result from the lawsuit, the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, which brought the lawsuit, has asked for fines as much as $2,500 for every person exposed to the chemical since 2002, potentially opening the door to massive settlements.” And the financial shakedown value here is far from incidental; it’s the very motor that keeps the law going.

Earlier here. See also Michael Marlow, Cato “Regulation,” 2013-14 (study finds “little to no statistical support” that Proposition 65 “significantly influenced cancer incidence in California.”) And a furniture warning via Timothy Lee (link fixed now). More: Omri Ben-Shahar, AICR (evidence that coffee is cancer-protective on net).

Environment roundup

  • “Lolita the killer whale has lived at Miami Seaquarium since 1970. Do the conditions of her confinement, including sharing her tank with dolphins that engage in inappropriate sexual behavior, amount to ‘harm’ and ‘harassment’ in violation of federal statute? The Eleventh Circuit says no.” [John Ross, Short Circuit, on PETA v. Miami Seaquarium]
  • California suit about Prop 65 warnings on coffee grinds on [Sara Randazzo/WSJ, Pierre Lemieux/EconLog, earlier]
  • NYC mayor De Blasio, who recently filed long-shot suit, says he hopes to “bring death knell to fossil fuel industry” [John Breslin, Legal NewsLine] “People don’t need to smoke cigarettes, but they have needed energy for many decades,” one of many reasons suing Big Oil is different from suing Big Tobacco [Amy Harder, Axios]
  • Squirrel rescue saga: “I begged and pleaded for a few more weeks, but was essentially told I needed to release him even though it was the middle of winter.” [Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times]
  • Aluminum smelter vs. orchards: a historic instance of nuisance litigation working well as a regulatory method? [Douglas Kysar, SSRN]
  • “Privatizing Federal Grazing Lands” [Chris Edwards, Cato]

“Coffee sold in California could carry cancer warning labels”

“Coffee could carry an ominous cancer warning in California if a nonprofit group prevails in a Los Angeles courtroom.” In a 7-year-old case against Starbucks and others, a group called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics “says coffee companies violated a state law requiring they warn consumers about a chemical created in the roasting process that could cause cancer.” [AP/KSBY; more Prop 65 follies]

Environment roundup

  • “Will Spokane Pass an Expensive, Unenforceable Ban on Rail Shipment of Fossil Fuels?” [Erin Mundahl, Inside Sources] New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo blockades a natural gas pipeline, and New England economy pays the price [WSJ]
  • “Plaintiff firms have filed some 800 complaints against marijuana businesses” alleging California Prop 65 (toxics warnings) violations [WSJ editorial, more on Prop 65]
  • Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, originally published in 2008 under editorship of Ronald Hamowy and now free online at Cato Institute, has article on “Environment” by Jonathan Adler; more background here;
  • Fake all the horns: entrepreneur’s scheme could make rhino poaching uneconomic, but enviro groups dead set against [John Stossel/Reason post, video]
  • Yes, you are ingesting pesticides. No, it’s not a problem [Matan Shelomi, Quora/Forbes]
  • The economic way of thinking tends to inoculate one against fads like the peak oil scare [Ron Bailey]