Local enviros continue to make excellent case for tort reform

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The Times-Standard’s announcement Tuesday that three  so-called environmental groups were extorting sacks of cash suing Disneyland was greeted unenthusiastically by the newspaper’s readers.

“Oh brother. How lame,” said one.

“I guess the grow that was funding their organization got popped,” said another.

The suit, brought in part by the Humboldt-based Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation and the Ecological Rights Foundation, is just the most recent made possible by California’s Proposition 65. Originally intended to hold large corporations accountable for environmental damage, Prop. 65 has instead turned into a cash machine for dozens of inbred orgs that support themselves and each either by filing one suit after another over infractions real and imagined.

In many cases, the hyper-litigious enviros are “protecting” us from conditions that posed no danger to begin with, but  insurance carriers frequently insist on quick settlements rather than pay the legal costs of fighting the nuisance suits.

While many media outlets treated the MEJF news release as though it bore some relation to fact, the Associated Press got it just about right with this opening sentence:

A nonprofit group that has filed dozens of environmental suits against major companies is now accusing Disneyland of exposing children to lead.

The allegation in this case is that high levels of lead have been detected on some railings and windows at the theme park.

One Times-Standard commenter proposed a simple enough solution: “WASH YOUR HANDS and don’t lick the windows!”

But then how would the eco-extorters make a living?

Judge deflates Baykeeper Balloon Track lawsuit

If this lawsuit fails, I can always resort to selling t-shirts and giving boat tours around the bay!

With nary a peep from any of the normally vocal environmental groups since his ruling last week, U.S. District Court Judge Jeff White dismissed the Humboldt Baykeeper’s major claim in its lawsuit against Eureka’s Balloon Track owners.

Baykeeper and its parent organization, the equally litigiously crazed Ecological Rights Foundation, filed the suit in 2006 claiming, among other things, that past and present owners of the property failed to secure the required discharge permits and allowed toxic stormwater to run into nearby Humboldt Bay.

Their lawyers have spent untold thousands of dollars (millions?) trying to sway the court into buying into a stinking pile of unconstitutional feces that the Balloon Track’s owner should be fined $32,500 per day for more than 3,000 separate Clean Water Act violations going back to early 2001.

That’s roughly $97 million, or just enough for any owner to abandon any thoughts of development on the property, right? That’s surely what wetlands advocate and California Coastal Commission buddy Bill Pierson was counting on anyway.

Not so fast said White, who ruled the laws don’t actually allow fines for discharge violations when there isn’t any discharge. Seems simple enough to us, but what the fuck do we know? Baykeeper and the other environmental elite know what’s best for us all. The court was more likely to believe there were less than 60 days during that nearly decade period when significant Northcoast storms delivered enough water to flush any potential toxins into the bay. White ordered the parties back to mediation.

With September nearly here and what may well be another record wet year, how much longer will Baykeeper pursue its seemingly ironic plan to block the only real cleanup of the property that has been sitting idle for decades?

Proposition 65: How to exploit a good-intentioned law to divert money to shadowy, litigious environmental groups

Q: What do all of the above companies have in common ?

A: They were among the 39 corporations sued by Humboldt County’s Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation in 2008 for product warnings and reformulations under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.

Proposition 65, which was referenced in a recent T-S My Word, was passed by Californians in 1986 because of toxic chemical concerns related to cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. The initiative, for all the right reasons, asked that businesses notify consumers and residents about significant levels of cancer causing compounds in products, their homes and….workplaces, or other bad stuff released into the air, ground or water.

Without a doubt, the world is a better place since Prop. 65 was passed and people are indeed safer thanks to some companies’ voluntary label warnings and products changes, as well as the court-mandated changes that came as a result of the numerous lawsuits brought by the government. But the law also opened the door for some of the biggest abuses by predatory and litigious “environmental” groups.

With a legal loophole on their side, 2008 was a spectacularly profitable year for the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation. Never heard of the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation? That’s not surprising. Mateel is a quiet little operation based out of Eureka that targets big businesses whose corporate headquarters are mostly far away from California in places like Maryland, Illinois and Ohio. According to California’s Attorney General’s Office, which tracks Prop. 65 lawsuits, Mateel settled 39 lawsuits in 2008 for over $1.7 million. Kudos to local lawyer William Verick for representing Mateel and raking in a hefty $1.06 million in attorney fees — roughly 60 percent of the total money awarded in the settlements.

But it’s not just warning labels, product reformulations and excessive attorneys fees that Mateel is after. Through Prop. 65 lawsuit settlements, Mateel also pilfered a shit load of additional dollars through “other distributions” that was handed over to other environmental groups, left-leaning radio stations and other interesting folks. How much? Well, just a paltry $619,850 in 2008.

So, just where did all that extra cash go from the Prop. 65 bonanza payouts?

Payout of "other distributions" from Mateel's Prop. 65 lawsuits in 2008.

So we know what CATs and the Environmental Protection Information Center does, but we’re fuzzy on what exactly the Ecological Rights Foundation does and why they are so cozy with Mateel to get so much cash from the lawsuits. But more on that later.

The academics Clifford Rechtschaffen and Patrick Williams at the Golden Gate University School of Law admit Proposition 65 is “quirky,” but paint a rather rosy picture in their paper published in 2005 titled “The Continued Success of Proposition 65 in Reducing Toxic Exposures:”

Nearly 20 years have passed since California residents overwhelmingly voted to enact Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act…The statute remains as controversial—if not more so—than when it was first enacted. Media attention in recent years often focuses on some of the quirkier or more sensational enforcement actions—such as suits about acrylimide in bread products and French fries, or lead in chocolate—and on the statute’s perceived excesses—such as suits by profiteering lawyers that result in large fee recoveries relative to the penalties imposed. The less frequently told story, however, is one of continued success in removing toxic chemicals from consumer products and industrial activities.

So it also shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Golden Gate University’s Environmental Litigation Clinic was named as one of the recipients of more than $309,000 in “other distributions” from the 40 Prop. 65 lawsuits Mateel filed in 2004—a year before the paper was published. Go figure.

Prog groups claim ‘irreparable harm’ if Balloon Track cleanup goes forward

From left, Peter, Ralph and Larry. Jennifer, far right, is bitching the boys some vittles.

The Times-Standard reports today that papers filed in court seeking to force the city of Eureka to withdraw its Environmental Impact Report allege “irreparable harm” will come to residents, fish and wildlife if the Marina Center property is cleaned up.

The petition was filed by the Northcoast Environmental Center, Humboldt Paykeeper, the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Ecological Rights Foundation, collectively known as the Four Jackasses of the Environmental Apocalypse.

The hyperbolic filing didn’t mention what villainy might befall the world were the NEC to clean up  its own contaminated property. Fortunately for all of us, we’re in no danger of finding out any time soon.

Photo straight janked from here.