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Three Environmental Groups Settle Precedent-Setting
Community Right-to-Know Suit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: August 2, 1991 Jim Hecker, TLPJ (202) 797-8600 Casey Padgett, EAF (202) 745-4870

Three national environmental groups and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice announced today that they have reached a settlement in the first case in the southern United States under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). The lawsuit charged a Richmond, Virginia manufacturer with failing to report its discharge of toxic chemicals into the environment.

Environmental Action Foundation, Environmental Action, and the Natural Resources Defense Council announced that a consent decree settling the case against IR International was entered in federal court in Richmond on July 30, 1991. The settlement obligates the company to conduct an audit to identify ways to reduce the use of toxic chemicals at the company's Sandston facility.

"This settlement shows that the public, through the law, can truly have an impact on the environmental problems in their communities," said TLPJ Foundation President Anthony Cunningham of Wagner, Cunningham, Vaughan and McLaughlin in Tampa, Florida. "It sends a message that companies must keep public health and safety at the top of their agenda."

The company has agreed to spend at least $115,000 implementing the measures identified in the audit, with a goal of reducing toxic chemical usage by 90 percent by 1993. In addition, the company will contribute $25,000 to the Virginia Environmental Endowment to educate other Virginia businesses about reducing the use and disposal of toxic chemicals. The combined $140,000 amount is the largest financial commitment made by any company to settle a citizen suit under the EPCRA.

The lawsuit, filed in March 1991 on behalf of the three groups by TLPJ and Richmond attorney William Shields, is the first brought in Virginia under the EPCRA. In May 1991, federal district court judge William Mehrige found IR International liable for violating the Act's requirement that companies must annually report releases of toxic chemicals. A trial to determine a penalty had been scheduled for August 1991.

"The purpose of this lawsuit was not only to force a company to disclose its releases of toxic chemicals, but to use those disclosures as the baseline to begin working toward voluntary reductions of pollution by the company," said Jim Hecker of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, lead counsel in the case.

"Pollution prevention -- stopping pollution before it is generated -- is the best option for reducing threats to public health and the environment," said Jim Simon, a senior attorney with NRDC. "We applaud the company's decision to make an enforceable commitment to pollution reduction."

Environmental Action Foundation staff attorney Casey Padgett said the settlement achieved the Foundation's goal of securing a commitment from the company to reduce its use of dangerous chemicals. "IR International has provided a positive example for other Virginia companies to emulate," said Padgett. "Toxics use reduction should be the cornerstone of every company's efforts to be environmentally responsible."

Source: RTK Net, Washington, DC

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