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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

Some flame retardant chemicals raise health, environmental concerns, P.2

Previously, we began looking at the concerns raised by the use of certain flame retardants in textiles and other consumer products, exposure to which may result in long-term health problems. The federal Toxic Substances Control Act does regulate the use of flame retardants in industry, and is currently evaluating several “problem formulation” chemicals used in flame retardants, including chlorinated phosphate esters, cyclic aliphatic bromides, and tetrabromobisphenol A.

These chemicals are used in a variety of products, including furniture foams, textiles, paints, coatings, plastics and electronic circuit boards. The Environmental Protection Agency is releasing these problem formulations, as well as data need assessments, for public comment and the agency plans to conduct risk assessment for each groups of concerning chemicals, with an eye toward possibly restricting their use. 

Some flame retardant chemicals raise health, environmental concerns

In a previous post, we looked at a lawsuit filed by a water company against over 30 carpet manufacturers in Alabama and Georgia for the companies’ alleged knowing release of chemicals into the Coosa and Consauga rivers, leading to economic loss for the water company due to environmental and public health issues.

The specific chemicals targeted in that particular lawsuit are reportedly used to make carpet stain-resistant, but other chemicals used to make carpet, textiles and other products flame-retardant can also cause environmental and health problems. There are a great many chemicals used as fire retardants for various products on the market, but at present it is really only a handful of them, according to experts, which raise serious concerns about environmental and health concerns. 

Fraud allegations at issue in litigation against Exxon Mobil

Last time, we spoke briefly about some of the causes of action that can be included in environmental litigation, including trespass, nuisance, strict liability, negligence, as well as various statutory violations. Another possibility in environmental litigation is fraud. An example of environmental litigation involving allegations of fraud can be seen in a recent lawsuit filed against Exxon Mobile Corp.

Environmental advocacy group Conservation Law Foundation filed a lawsuit against the oil corporation last week, alleging that Exxon Mobil’s bulk storage and distribution termination in Everett, Massachusetts has polluted and constitutes to pollute nearby waterways and communities, while the company has failed to address the impact of climate change on the facility. Among the claims are that the company committed fraud by covering up the risks of climate change for decades. 

Looking at some legal bases for environmental litigation

Previously, we looked briefly at the claims made in a lawsuit filed against carpet manufacturers and distributors, who are accused of polluting the Coosa and Conasauga rivers, causing elevated levels of toxins which require expensive filtration. For any business, evaluating environmental liabilities should always be part of thorough risk-mitigation efforts. This includes not only complying with state and federal statutory obligations, but also exercising reasonable care with respect to environmental resources the company has at its disposal.

Liability for the misuse of environmental resources can be based on the failure to carry out obligations under federal and state statutes, as well as ordinary common law. With respect to environmental law statutes, enforcement is often reserved to federal and state agencies, though in some cases individual citizens or other private parties may bring suit to enforce these laws, as is the case with the Clean Water Act. 

Lawsuit targets carpet manufacturers, distributors in river pollution

Pollution of the Coosa and Conasauga rivers, which run through eastern Alabama and Northwestern Georiga, is reportedly the subject of a lawsuit filed by a Gadsen, Alabama water company. The lawsuit, which targets 32 carpet manufacturing companies and suppliers, alleges that the companies knowingly released chemicals into the rivers, which resulted in “substantial economic and consequential damage” for the water company.

The chemicals at issue, perfluorooctane sulfate and perfluorooctanioc acid, are apparently used to make carpet stain-resistant, though they have been linked to cancer and other illnesses. Among the costs sought by the water company are expenses connected to the future installation and operation of a filtration system to remove the chemicals, as well as lost profits and sales as many customers have left the company to pursue other alternatives for drinking water. 

Elba Island LNG facility expansion

This past June, energy company Kinder Morgan reported that the Elba Liquefaction Project had received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In obtaining permission, Kinder Morgan will be able to expand the function of the Elba Island facility. Located five miles downstream from Savannah, Georgia, the LNG facility will be able to import and export liquefied natural gas, shipping the gas to free trade countries.

For residents in the region, here are facts to keep in mind the construction begins:

The EPA warns of a dicamba drift

Most farmers know that the yields of any growing season are impacted by the vagaries of Mother Nature: too much rain, too little rain, excessive heat, unseasonably cold weather. This past summer, however, those growing soybeans and cotton saw their crops ruined by someone in close proximity: neighbors using the dicamba herbicide.

In attempt to eradicate Roundup-resistant pigweed from their fields, some farmers used dicamba, which then wafted over to neighboring land. In the past, those growing soybeans and cotton would avoid employing the herbicide as it kills the tip of the leaves and causes blistering and puckering on the surface.

Local zoning dispute leads to appeal

Previously, we began looking at the topic of zoning, and specifically why it is important to work with an experienced attorney in navigating zoning matters. One good reason is that, as we mentioned last time, administration of zoning laws in Atlanta is handled by several different groups. Navigating the process is not necessarily an easy matter, particularly when one faces opposition in zoning matters.

In some cases, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit to seek relief in zoning matters, or to appeal a zoning decision. This is what a developer in the Atlanta area has recently done in response to the City of Brookhaven’s repeated denial of a proposed zoning change. The city has reportedly been working to decrease density for some time, and is doing so by denying requests for rezoning. 

Legal guidance regarding the use of asbestos? Yes. Here's why.

There are many differences between the development and construction procedures 50 years ago and the procedures today.

Up until just a few decades ago, for instance, asbestos was commonly used in the construction of buildings and homes across Georgia. The material was relatively inexpensive with fire-proofing qualities that were highly desirable in construction. But today, we know that exposure to asbestos can cause devastating illnesses.

For this reason, the way asbestos is used, handled and disposed of is strictly regulated by various environmental agencies.

Developers and those in the construction trade should take caution when asbestos is involved in any way.

Why work with an attorney when zoning issues arise?

Last time, we began discussing the topic of zoning and the impending update of Atlanta’s zoning codes. Zoning regulations can have a significant impact on both private residents and businesses in any industry, as they impact how land is developed, what uses land have, and the height, size, and placement of buildings on lots, as well as building density and number of parking spaces per building.

Administration of Atlanta’s zoning ordinance is in the care of several groups. First of all, there is the Zoning Review Board, a nine-member board appointed by the Mayor and City Council to consider property rezoning and special use permits. There is also the Board of Zoning Adjustment, a five-member body which meets two times per month to consider applications for zoning variances and special exceptions from the zoning ordinance. 

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