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State of Washington First to Sue Monsanto over PCB Pollution

Jan 12 | 2017  by

By Beth Florkowski of Fausone Bohn, LLP posted in Environmental Law on Thursday, January 12, 2017.

Paul Bohn, Esq.

At a news conference in Seattle, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that Washington will be the first state to sue the agrochemical giant Monsanto over pervasive pollution from PCBs.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, haven’t been used in decades as they were banned by Congress in 1979, but were previously common in many industrial and commercial applications such as paints and fluids.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs have been associated with many health problems with humans as well as other animals.

Citing health problems with the regions protected salmon and orcas, the state expects to win hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollar from Monsanto, claiming that the company “produced PCBs for decades while hiding what they knew about the toxic chemicals’ harm to human health and the environment.”

Monsanto answered the lawsuit by questioning the legality of their actions. Spokesman Scot S. Partridge pointed out that the selling of PCBs was legal four to eight decades ago when they were sold. Monsanto also believes that their company has no fault in the dangers saying that the PCBs were not only lawful, but were useful and used by third parties to make their product. According to spokeswoman Charla Lord, “If improper disposal or other improper uses created the necessity for clean-up costs, then these other third parties would bear responsibility for these costs.”

Washington’s lawsuit seeks damages on several grounds including product liability, negligence, and even trespass, for injuring the state’s natural resources. At this point, it is unclear if other states would follow Washington’s lead and sue Monsanto.