EPA’s Cost-Cutting Boiler Regulations Pose Obstacles to Toxic Tort Litigants

The Environmental Protection Agency recently scaled back its environmental rules for incinerators and boilers. Under the new regulations, companies using industrial boilers and incinerators will now spend less to prevent air pollution. According to The New York Times, companies operating large boilers that burn renewable fuels would not be required to install certain technologies and only maintenance would be required for smaller boilers. These revamped regulations are designed to promote job growth.

The EPA claims that these new regulations will sufficiently regulate corporations and also prevent air pollution. These new rules are expected to cut companies’ costs by $1.8 billion each year. Unfortunately, a less regulated industry will result in less cautious behavior across the industry. These relaxed regulations also present obstacles to toxic tort litigants in the future.

Because statutory and administrative controls on toxic substances play a role in toxic tort cases, these new lenient regulations present new challenges in toxic tort litigation. A toxic tort is an injury caused by a toxic substance that poses an immediate or future unreasonable risk. Typically, toxic tort injuries are not immediately noticeable and have a long latency period. Industry boilers and incinerators are commonly used by refineries, chemical plants, hospitals and churches to generate steam and hot water for heat and electricity. They are also the second-largest source of toxic mercury emissions in the United States. Even at low levels, toxic mercury emissions may eventually cause serious damage to the brain and senses.

Statutory standards and government regulations establish a minimum duty owed by manufacturers, transporters or users of toxic substances to third parties. In litigation, if a defendant-corporation has complied with all government regulations, the corporation may raise its regulatory compliance as a defense. Primarily, the compliance assists the corporation in proving that it did not act carelessly, an element required to be proved by the plaintiff under a theory of negligence. Therefore, relaxed government rules may reduce corporations’ liability for toxic torts in the future.

If you believe you have suffered from environmental contamination, talk to an experienced Louisiana law firm such as Broussard &David to find out if you have a claim for your property or personal injury. For further questions, contact Broussard & David, LLC at 888-337-2323(toll free) or 337-233-2323 (local).