Long lasting chemicals with components that break down very slowly over time, many widely used, fall under the category known as PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS chemicals have been the subject of controversial tort litigation for several years now, testing the limits of our scientific understanding, the rigors of the scientific method in the courtroom, and the admissibility of expert testimony.
Beyond litigation, in recent years, regulatory authorities have been turning their attention to evaluating the appropriate responses to PFAS, especially in the environmental context. As the EPA has recognized, “There are thousands of PFAS chemicals, and they are found in many different consumer, commercial, and industrial products. This makes it challenging to study and assess the potential human health and environmental risks.”
Most immediately, there is an emerging push to create CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) and RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) coverage for PFAS chemicals. If such coverage is extended, it could be a massive increase in CERCLA and RCRA liabilities and responsibilities for businesses and landowners nationwide.
This panel analyzed these developments, including whether there is statutory or regulatory authority under CERCLA and RCRA to expand to PFAS, whether such expanded regulation can be scientifically justified in these areas, what new coverage for PFAS under CERCLA or RCRA would mean for businesses and landowners, and the overall potential impacts of such expansion.
Ann Marie Duffy, Partner, Hollingsworth LLP
Matthew Z. Leopold, Partner, Hunton Andrews Kurth and former General Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Olivia Rangaswami, Associate, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.
Moderator: Caroline Cecot, Assistant Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University