If you’ve been walking along, whistling a tune at the blue skies overhead, you might be unaware of all the chatter on the airwaves over pipelines, fracking, and waste water. Fifty years ago, the voices of environmental non-profits received limited airtime, had less push within courtrooms, and were a small cry compared to the governments and companies they opposed.
Now, with a whole host of individuals, community groups, and non-profit organizations participating in agency hearings and lawsuits, the role of the expert witness is more important than ever.
On the one hand, the environmental expert witness educates the trier of fact as to laws and regulations governing the issues. Any number of these applicable legal standards is far below modern scientific standards, so the environmental expert witness can also speak to both industry standards and scientific advances. There is a great tension between the law and research in the field of environmental law, particularly into causation. The environmental expert witness comes into these lawsuits to cover precisely these questions.
One current issue in the news is the pipeline questions about in numerous states. At one time, these issues were clustered around oil fields and international ports, after which road and rail transportation took over. Taking just one example of America’s pipeline structure, according to US Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the “Annual Report Mileage for Liquefied Natural Gas Facilities” reported more than 53 million miles in service. The environmental expert witness in a pipeline case, for example, can speak to NSB safety recommendations, inspections completing, incident reports filed, employee drug and alcohol testing, and standards and rulemaking.
Hydrofracking questions have also come to the forefront in several states in recent years. A method used for the extraction of natural gas deposits in shale formations, hydrofracking issues arise from the chemicals used in the water pumped into fracture the shale and release the gas, as well as the waste water generated. The environmental expert witness can be involved in lawsuits, and can also be involved on behalf of citizens and organizations testifying at government hearings. Within this field, the expert witness can also lend expertise on studies previously performed, other sites around the country, further studies that should be commissioned, and the history of government regulation.
By: Paloma A. Capanna, Attorney at Law