“The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill on Wednesday that would hold companies liable for the release of toxic substances, whether intentional or not, and even if the pollution was done in accordance with the law.
Bill S.197, which is now headed to the Senate floor, was introduced by Bennington Sens. Dick Sears and Brian Campion, both Democrats, on Jan. 3 on behalf of hundreds of their constituents who for years have been drinking from poisoned wells contaminated by former Teflon-product manufacturer Chemfab, which is now owned by French multinational chemical firm Saint-Gobain.
Bennington residents whose wells Chemfab poisoned are suing Saint-Gobain to pay for medical monitoring in order to detect whether diseases arise associated with a Chemfab pollutant called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). However, the case has illustrated how difficult that can be.
‘These cases are always David and Goliath battles,’ Emily Joselson, an attorney representing the Bennington residents, told the judiciary committee Wednesday morning…
‘This bill starts to level the playing field,’ she said.
S.197 has proven highly controversial. It faces stern opposition from industrial concerns, who say it could raise the cost of their insurance premiums by holding them accountable for impacts that are impossible to foresee, and potentially permitted by the state.
Gov. Phil Scott’s administration has also come out against the bill, saying it will “hurt hardworking Vermonters.”
Joan Goldstein, Scott’s Commissioner of Economic Development at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said the bill would deter Vermont companies from making investments in developing new technologies.
‘This bill treats the responsible corporate citizen, one who takes care in procuring the proper permits, following all applicable state and federal regulations, same as the malicious polluter,’ Goldstein told the judiciary committee in February…
Joselson, the attorney representing Bennington residents, viewed the potential impact differently. She said the bill “makes it more likely that corporate citizens are going to behave responsibly.”
Read the full article by Mike Polhamus.