PARKERSBURG - A discussion on C8 exposure and its place as a national environmental issue took place Wednesday at the Blennerhassett School auditorium.
One of the attorneys involved in the continuing litigation is Robert Kennedy Jr., who has worked on many environmental cases across the U.S. His law practice, Kennedy and Madonna, LLP, is in Hurley, N.Y.
In West Virginia, Kennedy was involved in mountain top removal mining and the settlement reached in the case against DuPont related to cleanup of a former facility in Spelter, Harrison County.
Robert Kennedy Jr.
Attorney Harry Deitzler, whose law firm has worked on the C8 issue since 1998, said Kennedy's actions as an environmental advocate have "made a difference in the country from A to Z."
Kennedy said as an environmental advocate there is no such thing as Republican children or Democratic children. He said the issue is to preserve the country's environmental infrastructure for the children.
"It's a national issue," he said. "It's an issue about the moral obligation we have to our children; we're not protecting the environment for the sake of the fishes and the birds; we are protecting it because we recognize that nature is the infrastructure for our communities."
There is an obligation to create communities for the next generation to provide them the same opportunities for dignity, enrichment, prosperity and good health, Kennedy said.
He said the environmental infrastructure connects us to past generations. It is something that belongs to all and cannot be reduced to private property and ownership, Kennedy said.
"Issues of democracy and the environment and human health are ultimately intertwined," he said.
Kennedy said in 30 years of law practice he has worked for public interests rather than private interests. He said the C8 cases amounted to deception about the release of the chemical.
Kennedy said DuPont was aware of the dangers in the late 1950s and memos between attorneys for DuPont urged the company to come forward about the danger of the chemical, calling it "their moral obligation."
Kennedy said polluting the environment leads to a bad economy.
"You hear people say you have to choose between economic prosperity on one hand and environmental protection on the other," he said. "That is a false choice; in 100 percent of the situations good environmental policy is identical to good economic policy."
Kennedy said DuPont has been urging the public to treat Parkersburg and West Virginia as if it were a business in liquidation.
"They want to convert the natural resources, the rivers and the streams, the farms and grasses and people into instantaneous cash as quickly as they can," he said. "They can have a few years of pollution-based prosperity and can make a few people in Delaware very, very rich but they are going to impoverish the people of West Virginia and make them sick."
Kennedy said environmental injury is like deficit spending in that it loads the costs of one generation's prosperity on the backs of the next.
Kennedy said investing in the environment does not diminish wealth but increases wealth and has to be made to ensure economic vitality.