September 16, 2020
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today stated her strong support for newly introduced legislation to advance Michigan’s interests in protecting residents from the forever chemicals commonly known as PFAS, and the State’s ability to recover costs and damages from PFAS polluters.
Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, introduced two bills today that would provide a better timeframe in which those affected by the toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) can make claims, and another to expand the State’s ability to seek damages from PFAS polluters where environmental remediation may already be underway.
Senate Bill 1122 would amend Part 201 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act and allow the State to seek damages, on behalf of the public, for emerging contaminants at sites where work is already underway removing other, regulated substances. Even years after remediation at contaminated sites, Michigan continues to be plagued by new and previously unknown threats. This bill ensures the state could seek damages within six years from the start of onsite remedial action to restore or replace public resources damaged by emerging contaminants.
The other piece of legislation, Senate Bill 1123, would amend the Revised Judicature Act to adjust the time limit someone has when claiming personal or property injuries and damages. The change would establish a timeframe that begins with when the claimant knew or should have known the hazardous substance was released into the environment, as opposed to the date when the hazardous substance was leaked. There is still a time limit to file claims, but the amendment would allow for claims to be filed at later dates in instances where the harmful effects of substances that may not have been seen as dangerous in the past become more publicly known.
“My office’s commitment to protect the public health, safety and welfare is a driving factor behind Michigan’s lawsuits against PFAS manufacturers, and the State must use every tool at its disposal to hold accountable the corporate polluters who knowingly contaminated our natural resources and jeopardized the health of our residents,” Nessel said. “This legislation offers the legal framework we need to not only ensure our residents have a fair process through which to make claims for damages from PFAS, but also to ensure the rest of our State’s taxpayers are not paying to clean up the messes caused by those who are responsible for the forever chemicals contaminating our environment.”
The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit in January against multiple major PFAS manufacturing companies. The lawsuit last month overcame several attempts by defendants to dismiss the case in Kent County Circuit Court. The case will now move into discovery, the stage of litigation in which the parties seek and provide information from one another as allowed under court rules.
The Kent County case against manufacturers of PFAS and PFAS-containing products other than firefighting foam is part of a multi-pronged strategy to find and address PFAS contamination in the state. The Attorney General also last month filed a pair of complaints in state and federal court seeking damages and costs of PFAS contamination from firefighting foam known as AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam).
Exposure to PFAS is correlated with several harmful and serious health effects including but not limited to:
The legislation introduced by Sen. Brinks would provide the State and its residents with additional legal options when dealing with the effects of PFAS chemicals.
“Sen. Brinks has been fighting PFAS contamination for many years, and I am grateful to stand with her now as we call on our Legislature to act in the best interests of Michiganders,” Attorney General Nessel said. “Lawmakers should support these commonsense measures to ensure our state has the tools to more effectively hold accountable those who have jeopardized our environment, and so that Michiganders making claims against these polluters have the means to do so through a fair process. Protecting our state’s natural resources and its residents from the harms caused by these forever chemicals is not a question that we need to debate – it is our duty as public servants.”
To view copies of the bills, visit the Michigan Legislature’s website and search for them by their bill numbers.