Herring fights in Supreme Court to protect states’ ability to hold polluters accountable
Attorney General Mark Herring has written an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, joined by 14 fellow attorneys general, defending the ability of Virginia and other states to hold polluters accountable for the damage they cause.
In the case of Atlantic Richfield Company v. Gregory A. Christian, et al., a case out of Montana, a heavy manufacturing company is trying to avoid paying for the cleanup of its former site by saying that federal law blocks the ability of states to address, respond to, and clean up hazardous waste sites. Herring and his colleagues argue that federal law clearly allows states to protect their land, air, and water from damage, and to hold polluters accountable for the damage they cause.
“Virginia and our fellow states have the right to protect our people and our land, air, and water from pollution and contamination, and we have the right to hold polluters accountable when they violate our laws, regulations, and protections,” said Herring. “If this case is successful, it could eviscerate our ability to protect our environment and natural resources, which is why my team and I took the lead on this important brief. I appreciate the support of so many of my colleagues from around the country who recognize what is at stake.”
In their brief, Herring and his colleagues write that “States have a strong interest in ensuring that their citizens (and the State itself) are compensated for injuries caused by releases of hazardous materials and in preserving their authority to address, respond to, and remediate harm from environmental contamination.”
The states further explain that, far from preempting states’ ability to punish polluters, the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) actually “aimed to preserve the States’ traditional role in addressing environmental contamination,” and recognized “that States play an important role in addressing, responding to, and remediating environmental disasters.”
In addition to Herring, the brief was joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.