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Project on Government Oversight

Erin Brockovich, Veterans Rally Against Government’s Position in Supreme Court Pollution Case

Consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, dozens of military veterans, and watchdog groups rallied today to voice frustration over the federal government’s support of a known polluter in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken the side of electronics manufacturer, CTS Corp., in a case before the Court that could strip legal rights from military families poisoned by toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C and other victims of industrial pollution across the country.

The case, CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, will decide if federal environmental law preempts North Carolina’s statute of repose, which imposes a 10-year limit for victims to file lawsuits. A ruling in favor of CTS Corp. would void injury claims of Asheville, N.C. residents who for decades were exposed to trichloroethlylene (TCE), a known carcinogen, on land contaminated by CTS Corp.

“Whether it’s Marines at Camp Lejeune, families in Asheville, or residents of any community located near a Superfund site, we cannot allow this case to set a precedent giving polluters a free pass,” said Brockovich, who attended the rally and a march to the U.S. Supreme Court. “It is unconscionable and egregious to deny victims of industrial pollution their day in court.”

Rather than defending the victims, the DOJ filed a brief on behalf of CTS Corp., specifically noting the government’s interest in this case and how it could affect ongoing litigation from those sickened at Camp Lejeune.

“The DOJ is purposely supporting a known polluter to set a legal precedent which would deny Marines, veterans and their families of the very constitutional rights we all served and sacrificed to protect,” said retired Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, who uncovered the contamination at Camp Lejeune after losing his 9-year old daughter Janey to leukemia. "We just want the opportunity to present our cases in court and allow the merits of our cases to be the determining factor. The DOJ has instead resorted to last ditch ‘legal gymnastics’ to kill all of our claims in their cribs.”

“It is preposterous that the DOJ is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reward corporate and government irresponsibility and condone the poisoning of up to one million Marines and their families who faithfully served this country,” said Mike Partain, a breast cancer survivor who lived at Camp Lejeune.

DOJ’s position conflicts with the Obama administration’s commitment to protect public health and the environment. In August 2012, President Barack Obama signed the Janey Ensminger Act into law, which offers health benefits to those contaminated at Camp Lejeune.

“Instead of fulfilling its obligation to take care of the military veterans and families sickened at Camp Lejeune, the government has turned its back on them,” said Heather White, EWG’s Executive Director. “It’s a slap in the face to not only the victims of Camp Lejeune, but to all of the men and women who serve the country.”

“Today we stand with the estimated one million Marines, their families, and the civilians of Camp Lejeune,” said Angela Canterbury, Project On Government Oversight’s Director of Public Policy. “It's time to finally protect those who protect us.”

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