A personal injury law firm representing Flint residents has hired Washington lobbyists to push Congress to create a victim compensation fund for people affected by the Michigan city’s contaminated drinking water.
Attorneys at the law firm Napoli Shkolnik previously secured millions of dollars in settlements for firefighters, police officers and other Ground Zero workers for ailments related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
This month Napoli hired lobbyists at the boutique D.C. firm Envision Strategy as it pushes to get similar type of relief for the 1,000 Flint residents it represents who are dealing with health issues caused by the city’s poisoned water supply.
If approved by Congress, the fund could draw from federal and state money to pay for residents’ health care costs.
“The game plan is to try and figure out what the needs are of the people of Flint,” said Brett Heimov, a lobbyist at Envision and a former aide to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) who previously lobbied for legislation authorizing the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. “We’ll sit down and reach out to the Michigan delegation to craft legislation to try to make it happen.”
The other lobbyists working on the Flint matter are Steve Schultz, Carol Pineau and Steve Stallmer.
The public health crisis in Flint occurred after the city switched to a new water source, the Flint River, in 2014 as a money-saving measure. But local officials failed to treat the water with a chemical that would have prevented lead in the pipes from corroding and contaminating the water. As a result, thousands of residents were exposed to dangerous levels of lead. For months, residents complained about the taste, odor and color of the water. But officials repeatedly downplayed the concerns.
At a House hearing Tuesday, lawmakers criticized former Michigan officials and a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator for their roles in the decisions that led to the water contamination in Flint and how they deal with its aftermath.
“You screwed up and you ruined people’s lives,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told former EPA official Susan Hedman, who resigned in February in the wake of the crisis.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who is under pressure to resign, is scheduled to appear before the committee Thursday.
Last month, a bipartisan group of senators led by Michigan Democrats Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), reached a deal to provide funding to help Flint and other cities struggling to replace aging pipes. The deal includes $70 million in credit subsidies for water infrastructure projects, $100 million in subsidized loans for water infrastructure improvements and $50 million for public health programs. The aid package would be offset by rescinding $250 million in loan credits for a program that was intended to help auto companies develop fuel economy technology.