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Andrew Alden

The Law Against Serpentine: The Attorneys' Arena

By July 12, 2010

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At About.com, I have celebrated serpentinite (the rock commonly called serpentine) for many years as a rock-lover. I'm upset about California's Senate Bill 624, which removes serpentine as the state rock, as a rock-lover. That's an educational issue. But the Civil Justice Association of California, conservative group that works against its idea of frivolous lawsuits, recognizes the legal havoc that SB624 could cause. In fact, I recognized it myself yesterday as I visited the Oakland Museum of California, where serpentinite boulders are part of the decor. Once a panicked parent complains about serpentine, when even the idea of such a complaint arises, educational institutions will be pulled unwillingly into this legal/political battle. SB624's sponsors are mesothelioma lawyers setting a trap by having the state declare that serpentine, in and of itself, is a carcinogen. This will allow them to rack up billable hours in court whenever anyone—a landowner who wants to shut down a noisy historic railroad line, the owner of a rural hilltop palace who wants developers out of his viewshed, opponents of a new highway—is willing to invoke the "A-word" asbestos on their behalf.

Yes, this is a California issue. But think about your own state and its state rock or its state mineral. Why should Kentucky celebrate "filthy coal" as its state mineral? Should the dreaded lead ore galena be forced down the children's throats of Missouri? Because airborne quartz dust causes silicosis, will devious activists dethrone quartz in Georgia, Arkansas, South Dakota and elsewhere?

Comments

July 13, 2010 at 8:36 am
(1) pyromancer76 says:

Thanks for the geologists’ weighing in on this important matter. Not only conservatives are concerned about elites/socialists (in this case lawyers) finding another goodness of American life to subvert to enlarge their pocket books and garner political control. This classical liberal (a friendly and patriotic rival to conservatives) is appalled. I hope scientists and non-scientists together can stop this run-away freight train of news laws, policies, and regulations. Americans must be able to live their lives, raise their families, practice their professions, and work at their jobs without this constant harrassment.

July 15, 2010 at 3:30 am
(2) j a higginbotham says:

Off topic, but seriously, what kind of “classic liberal” uses “elites” as a derogatory term? Anyone fussing about “elites” wouldn’t care about the elitist geologists and their opinions; he would be off asking Joe the Plumber or Linda Reinstein.

July 16, 2010 at 8:37 pm
(3) Nishanta Rajakaruna says:

Now, what can we do to put a stop to this craziness? I am a botanist who studies plants which grow only on CA’s serpentine landscapes – about 13% of CA’s plants are found nowhere else in the world, only on the serpentine landscapes here in CA. My colleagues and I have written to the governor, Gloria Romero, and contributed to many blogs online but wondering what the best way is to say there is absolutely no scientific reasoning behind this push to strip serpentine off its status as state rock. Serpentine does not equal mesothelioma and I challenge those who are pushing this bill to show any evidence that anyone has developed mesothelioma from naturally-occurring serpentine landscapes here in CA! Most of my friends who have dedicated their lives to studying these landscapes (rocks, soils, plants, other critters) have lived very long lives! – many are still in their 90s!
I know that’s besides the point, but seriously, there are NO studies showing short fiber chrysotile asbestos found in low levels in serpentine landscapes here in CA can cause mesothelioma! If we are seriously concerned about public health – let’s ban sunlight which causes more cancers than anything else natural out there!
I can’t believe we are all wasting our time on an issue that should just be dropped so everyone can do what’s important to save the state!

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