Monday, September 17, 2007

R.I's AG Patrick Lynch Has Been Eating Paint Chips

When I first was alerted to this I thought the person was pulling my leg. Sadly for Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, common sense and the image of Rhode Island, it is true.

Lynch is proposing that the three paint companies (Sherwin Williams (SHW), Millenium Holdings and NL Industries (NL)) who lost the public nuisance trial last year (it is now under appeal to the RI Supreme Court)spend $2.4 billion removing lead paint from more than half the houses and apartments in Rhode Island. It is important to note that of the dozen similar cases out there, this is the only loss to date and essentially happened because the Judge, Micheal Silverstein directed a verdict for the plaintiffs with jury instruction so biased against the defense jurors later said "there was no other way but to find but for the plaintiffs". there are also the trivial little matters of evidence being withheld by the state and the basic rules of law being pushed to the side. This verdict will not only be over turned on appeal, but I would expect public admonishments of both the judge and prosecutors when all is said and done.

The 132 page sophomoric abatement plan (here), if approved, would lead to the single biggest construction job in the history of the state. Perhaps Lynch is trying to one up the success of Boston's "Big Dig"? Please tell me you understand that is dripping with sarcasm?!?

Lynch’s office wants the three paint companies to clean up paint in 240,000 houses and apartments, 12,969 seasonal housing units, 419 child care centers and 339 elementary schools over a four-year period. It should be noted that at least in the 339 schools, the State of Rhode Island requested lead paint be used "for it's durability". No matter to Lynch.

Why is he doing this? PR for jobs in a sagging Rhodie Island economy. He is proposing 10,000 workers be hired to complete the work in an "expeditious" manner. The job of replacing over half the windows and doors in the state would require a “substantial training and outreach effort . . . to attract the needed workforce,” Lynch said.

So there we are. Let's not forget that DuPont (DD) was left off the hook here. Why? They made a nice contribution to Brown, Lynch's alma mater via their "settlement". Oh yeah, they also made another contribution to a charity they control. I blogged on how much this DuPont thing reeks before, please read it.

Now we can move on to the lunacy of the plan. When it lead paint dangerous? When it is sitting on a windowsill or door? No. It is dangerous when it is release into the air and digested. What Lynch wants to do is essentially cause the most massive release of lead into the air in history. There is no "100% effective" way to remove lead paint without releasing particles into the air. Every remediation expert will tell you the safest way is to "encapsulate it" (paint over) but that will not cost $2.4 billion, create 10,000 jobs or any headlines, so, screw it. Lynch now wants to ramp up hiring those folks who are unemployed to do the job? Will they at least be given a videotape to watch first on how to do it?

Says the report "numerous studies have shown that the monetary benefits of controlling lead far outweigh the costs". Really? does this mean Sherwin Williams will sell more paint there? I am sure it does outweigh them Patrick, especially when you consider they are not your "costs". Is this guy serious? The plan will also create some cushy $75,000 a year "supervisory" positions for some folks, maybe some friends of Lynch need more work?

The best view of it? Scott Smith, an attorney for Millennium Holdings said, "We believe the state plan is, in a word ridiculous. It is completely unprecedented, it's unworkable and it will, indeed, be harmful to the state." You mean releasing unprecedented amounts of lead into the air over Rhode Island may be harmful? Who could Lynch sue then? The workers?

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