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Overnight Energy & Environment: Limits to contamination claims on military bases

Overnight Energy & Environment: Limits to contamination claims on military bases

Overnight Energy & Environment High court will hear case on water rule

Welcome to Thursdays Overnight Energy & EnvironmentThe Hill is your source for the most recent news on energy, the environment, and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Today we will examine how the legal system prevents military lawsuits over toxic chemicals, new findings about gas stoves, and a cybersecurity plan to protect water systems.

Rachel Frazin was the Hill’s editor and Zack Budryk was its reporter. Send us tips to rfrazin@thehill.com or zbudryk@thehill.com Follow us on Twitter @RachelFrazinAnd @BudrykZack.

Lets jump in.

High legal bar protects military from PFAS suits

This is Part 3 of a series on “forever chemical” this week. Visit TheHill.com For more information.

PFAS is a major source for community contamination in military installations. However, it can be difficult to hold the Defense Department responsible due to a maze of legal limitations.

Mark Favors, a Colorado Springs-based activist and nurse, has seen his family members, including his grandmother, succumb to cancer due to the release of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) from Peterson Air Force Base.

Although PFAS are found in many household products they are most commonly found in aqueous films forming foam (AFFF), which fights jet fuel fires on military bases as well as civilian airports. PFAS have been linked with thyroid disease, kidney cancer, and other diseases.

Favors’ living relatives have signed up for multidistrict litigation (MDL), against companies that made these chemicals.

Favors stated that he was not able to sue the Department of Defense because of the legal hurdles involved in challenging the military in court.

He was frustrated that there is no way to holdthe Pentagonresponsiblefor its actions and stressed that Congress should be accountable.

The Pentagon has publicly acknowledged that decades of firefighting foam in Favorss contaminated groundwater, contaminating both private and public wells.The Air Force Now, the use of this product is restrictedUse AFFF foam only in emergency situations.

For many, however, the water was contaminated and they were unaware of the toxins. This made it difficult for many people living near the water source to stop drinking the water.

So what can the military say? We are aware that the firefighting mission we performed may have adversely affected drinking water supplies around our installations. A spokesperson for Air Force said that they are working closely with regulatory agencies and community partners to address these impacts.

According to the statement, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center began working in 2016 with public water suppliers as well as private well owners to provide drinking waters alternatives. This included bottled water and the installation treatment systems for all public drinking wells and private homes that tested higher than the EPAs health advisory levels.

Peter Hughes, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, stated via email that the department is currently assessing 699 locations where it may have released PFAS. The department has completed 190 assessments thus far. The department found that 115 of those installations warrant additional actions as part of the cleanup process.

He said that the department was taking action to address the issue, noting that the department has committed nearly $1.5 billion to addressing PFAS releases by fiscal year 2021.

A POSSIBLE LEGAL ROUTE

Favors and other activists would consider suing the Defense Department a losing battle due to federal legal protections which make it difficult if not impossible to sue.

The only way a plaintiff can sue is through the Air Force It is through the Federal Tort Claims ActKevin Hannon, an associate from Denver’s Morgan and Morgan Law Firm and The Hannon Law Firm is a member of the plaintiffs steering board for the nationwide MDL that is being held against South Carolina manufacturers of PFAS.

The Federal Tort Claims Act was a 1946 statute that allows private individuals to sue America in federal court. It recognizes liability for negligent and wrongful acts of government employees.

Paul Napoli (co-lead counsel for MDL) explained that it is still difficult to sue the military for what they call discretionary functions immunity.

This immunity means that even if harm is caused, a plaintiff cannot sue if a government employee’s action was based solely on discretion.

Federal immunity according to the legal dictionary Wex Law This concept is derived from the notion of “sovereign immunity.”This is based on the British common-law doctrine that the King cannot do wrong.

But there’s a twist: The Pentagon is not a part of the ongoing national MDL against companies that make AFFF foam, so plaintiffs can’t sue it. However, these circumstances have made the military an ally in the case against the manufacturers.

Napoli stated that it would be impossible and counterproductive to sue the military in the case and could let the manufacturers off the hook.

Napoli stated that one of the issues in the litigation was that the defendants’ defense was that the government forced us to do it. We have been able get testimony from the government proving that it wasn’t our fault, but rather the manufacturers.

Learn more about these legal issues here.

Study: Gas stoves emit methane if they are off

A new study has shown that gas stoves continue to emit greenhouse gases even when they are turned off. This is affecting both human health as well as climate change more significantly than previously thought.

Stanford University researchers measured the release of methane, and nitrogen oxides from 53 California homes. These greenhouse gases are important contributors to climate change.

They looked at the emissions from both the stoves and the ovens, and found that nearly three quarters of the stoves’ methane releases were when the appliances were turned off.

The research also suggests the EPA might be undercounting the amount of emissions that actually come from gas stoves.

Researchers stated that their methane emissions from stoves was more than the EPA’s estimate for all residential natural gases stationary combustion. This category can include many appliances.

Learn more about the findings by clicking here

A CYBER PLAN TO WATER

Thursday’s announcement by President Biden of a new plan to protect U.S. water systems against cyberattacks was part of a wider effort to defend domestic critical infrastructure from digital threats.

The White House announced a new plan for the water sector. It was jointly announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This plan aims to encourage water utilities and other water providers to adopt technology that can detect cyber threats to industrial controls systems (ICS) early. According to the White House the administration will implement the plan within 100 days.

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The administration is also working to increase information sharing between water utility owners and federal government officials about cyber threats.

In light of recent high-profile cyberattacks such as those that targeted Colonial Pipeline or JBS (meat processor JBS) last year, the Biden administration has been working to increase cybersecurity of critical infrastructure systems. Similar plans have been announced by the administration to protect the electric sector as well as natural gas pipelines.

A senior administration official said that cybersecurity is a top economic priority for the Biden administration. He spoke to reporters during a preview call prior to Thursday’s announcement.

Officials claimed that the attacks on Colonial Pipeline, JBS and other infrastructure exposed the limits of federal government authority to establish cybersecurity baselines.

The EPA and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the Department of Homeland Security will be establishing a pilot program to allow water utilities to participate in ICS Monitoring.

Learn more about The Hills Morgan Chalfant’s initiative here.

KERRY MEETS UP WITH COUNTERPARTS

Climate Envoy John KerryJohn KerryThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden: Russia attack would change the world’ Overnight Energy & Environment High Court will hear case on water rule Kerry warns of efforts to stop climate change: ’We’re in trouble.Thursday saw the virtual meeting of international officials at a Major Economies forum on Climate and Energy ministerial to discuss climate issues.

A senior administration official stated to reporters on Thursday that officials discussed the results of last years Glasgow climate summit as well as this years meeting in Egypt. The official also stated that countries discussed ways to accelerate the phase down coal.

The U.S., along with other countries, offered additional ideas such as further action on methane and curbingdeforestationin agriculture, ways to set goals to increase carbon-free electricity generation, and accelerate the transition from fossil fuel vehicles.

The meeting featured countries includingRussia,China, Indiaand Brazil but it wasnt limited to only major economies, with Senegal, representing a group of less developed countries, participating as well.

It was encouraging to hear about the many ways countries are working towards building on the progress made at Glasgow. Kerry stated in a statement that many countries highlighted the importance of aligning their 2030 targets with the Paris goal strengthening this year. Kerry spoke about the meeting.

One thing is certain: we must all move faster in this decade in order to accelerate the transition to renewables from coal. He said that he looks forward to our next meeting as well as to our next leaders meeting when we can hopefully take things up to the next level.

WHAT WAS READING

  • Trump-era solar tariffs extended by the White House, with some tweaksReuters)
  • TV ads and ballot initiative: How solar power became an important California political issueThe Sacramento Bee)
  • How an anti-trans group split up the fight against a lithium mineE&E News)
  • Research shows that even low levels of soot can be fatal for older people.The New York Times)
  • Environmental justice groups sue EPA regarding incinerator polluting (The Associated Press)

ICYMI

Finally, something a little offbeat and unorthodox:Some rare bird news.

That’s all for today. Thank you for reading. Check out The HillsEnergy & Environment pageFor the most recent news and coverage. Check out the video below.YouFriday.

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