Pulling Out All the Stops to Get Funding for Groundwater Clean Up
How do you get responsible parties to pay for the impacts from their activities without filing new litigation? The Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster called on us not only to answer this question, but to make it happen.
The Watermaster, (a court appointed agency whose job is to protect adjudicated water rights and address basin-wide issues that affect water quality) had grown frustrated with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) slow-moving Superfund action. Water purveyors in the basin, in critical need of safe, reliable water supplies, were not willing to foot the bill to local ratepayers. So, we pressed the responsible parties into action directly by mobilizing stakeholders, including local politicians, water purveyors and utilities, orchestrating a legislative hearing, and petitioning the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
The hearing precipitated action at the EPA. The Regional Board's order to clean up the contamination or pay the cost of importing clean water from distant sources succeeded in bringing the parties to the negotiating table. Over the next few years, we negotiated a landmark $350 million multi-party settlement. The upshot? Eight companies responsible for contaminating the basin's groundwater will pay for a series of water treatment facilities that will deliver clean water to 1.5 million residential and commercial water users in Southern California.
In 2017, following two additional years of negotiations, Nossaman achieved a ten-year renewal of the Settlement Agreement. This extension enhances the settlement from a $350 total to an estimated $650 million multi-party settlement.