Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), which includes PFOA and PFOS among others, have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe since the mid-1900s. The unique ability of PFAS to repel both oil and water has led to their application in in a multitude of products including items such as stain and water-repellent fabric, chemical-and oil-resistant coatings, food packaging materials, plastics, firefighting foam, solar panels, and many others. The carbon-fluorine bond is the strongest in nature, making these compounds highly persistent in the environment. Because PFAS are both highly soluble and persistent in the environment, environmental agencies, public interest organizations, and plaintiffs’ attorneys began raising questions over a decade ago about the environmental and public health impacts of PFAS, with scrutiny recently intensifying.
In response to such concerns, EPA held a National PFAS Leadership Summit in May 2018. At this meeting, EPA discussed potential regulatory steps to address PFAS and successor substances (such as GenX and PFBS ), including initiating steps to evaluate the need for a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for PFOA and PFOS, designating PFOA and PFAS as “hazardous substances” potentially under CERCLA, and developing groundwater cleanup recommendations for PFOA and PFOS. EPA recently released draft toxicity assessments for GenX and PFBS. By the end of 2018, EPA plans to unveil a PFAS National Management Plan as a result of this meeting and subsequent community engagement sessions.
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP’s PFAS team is interdisciplinary, with extensive experience in state and federal regulatory, litigation and technical issues related to PFAS. The team includes former agency lawyers, in-house counsel, engineers and government officials. Our litigation experience is broad and deep, with a history of representations in all 50 states and in international jurisdictions, including in significant toxic tort, cleanup and environmental class action matters. The team works collaboratively to support client projects across multiple jurisdictions, whether serving as primary outside counsel or working with clients’ local counsel and technical personnel. We understand our clients’ business needs, and we partner with in-house counsel to deliver pragmatic solutions to ever-changing regulatory and litigation matters.
Hunton Andrews Kurth’s PFAS team also monitors and understands the science behind PFAS. Our familiarity with the technical aspects of PFAS, along with the team’s technical background in biochemistry, engineering and in-house risk management approaches, allows our team to thoroughly and efficiently support all aspects of a client’s efforts to manage this important issue.
Our PFAS experience includes:
- Regulatory monitoring and advocacy. At Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, we cover every phase of the regulatory process. The core of our regulatory work involves advocating for clients before administrative agencies during the rulemaking process. This work includes assessing proposals, writing comments, negotiating with the agency, and when necessary, challenging final rules. But our capability extends well beyond these basic functions. We provide sophisticated advice and assistance during the formulation of the laws that drive regulations. We help companies understand final rules and put effective compliance strategies in place. We evaluate how the regulatory process can be used to help manage litigation risk. We also stand ready to vigorously defend against federal, state or citizen enforcement actions.
- Pre-litigation advice and counsel. We work with you to identify your exposure in order to support the development of a comprehensive cost-effective plan addressing regulatory, litigation and other risks associated with PFAS.
- Litigation. Our team of 400 litigation attorneys is engaged by corporations and other large entities across a broad range of matters – from providing advice and counsel about business disputes and torts to civil litigation, trial, and appeal, when necessary. We are often engaged in “bet-the-company” cases, complex commercial disputes, multidistrict litigation and coordinated state law proceedings, as well as in class actions. Our lawyers have the experience to handle cases that involve multiple adversaries in federal and state courts across the nation and abroad.
- National Counsel. We serve as national or worldwide coordinating counsel for many of our clients where we strategically defend the client’s interests not only in one particular case but with the recognition that similar cases are being filed in other jurisdictions, and actions taken in one case may have significant consequences in other cases. We implement a strategy to advance an overall litigation portfolio goal while minimizing risk across the litigation, and defending each case on the merits.
- Environmental compliance and litigation defense. Our lawyers have handled a wide array of actions in various venues, including state and federal enforcement actions and citizen suits seeking significant civil penalties, actions for emergency or injunctive relief, demands for information, site investigations, site clean-up actions, and similar matters. These matters include state and federal trial court proceedings, appeals in federal and state courts, and administrative agency proceedings, including matters before EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board.
- Product liability, personal Injury, property damage, and toxic tort litigation. Our trial lawyers have litigated cases involving toxic torts, environmental liability, product liability, occupational injuries, and public nuisance, among others, and have substantial experience defending claims involving allegations of cancer, neurologic harm and other long-latency diseases. We have handled cases involving air, water, soil and fire/explosion-related exposures and mass evacuations in which all facets of regulatory compliance, public relations and litigation are intertwined.
Publications such as The American Lawyer, National Law Journal, Chambers USA, Legal 500 United States, US News Best Lawyers and Global Investigations Review have recognized our practice and lawyers for their successful results and approach to client service. While we appreciate these honors, we measure success by the ultimate satisfaction of our clients.