Property Owners Could Lose Courtroom Protection From Pollution - WSPA.com

Property Owners Could Lose Courtroom Protection From Pollution

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A bill in the South Carolina legislature would block many lawsuits filed to clean up corporate pollution. A bill in the South Carolina legislature would block many lawsuits filed to clean up corporate pollution.
SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. - It took decades of research and a Community Watchdog Investigation to uncover a plume of toxic chemicals in the Cannon Campground Community of Spartanburg County.

Families said pollution from a nearby company made them seriously ill.

Much of their evidence in a lawsuit filed in federal court comes from the files of the South Carolina agency that is supposed to protect them and the environment, the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

“I have copies of D-HEC reports of spills and waste and things that this or any industry shouldn't have done for years but they never told us," said Lisa Nielsen.

New legislation in Columbia could limit other’s right to do the same thing.

A bill sponsored by Greenville Representative Dwight Loftis passed the state house by a 70-30 vote.

It would limit “private right of action” in pollution cases.

 Loftis said he wanted to prevent outside groups from suing South Carolina companies in pollution cases in which there were not directly impacted.

The legislative action is, in part, triggered by lawsuits filed by the Southern Environmental Law Group’s claim against Santee Cooper about more than a million tons of coal ash stored near Conway.

The group claimed the ash violated the pollution control act.

The utility agreed to clean up the ash and the law suit was dismissed.

Now, the legislature would make similar lawsuits more difficult and in some cases impossible.

“We have to do it ourselves.  We have to have that ability,” Nielsen said.

Representative Loftis said he is confident other legislation will continue to protect property owners and that D-HEC was up to the job of protecting against corporate pollution.
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