Commencement Speaker for 2020
Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
New College of Florida alumnus Robert Bilott is an attorney whose work battling corporate giant DuPont is chronicled in his recently published book Exposure and the 2019 movie Dark Waters. Bilott, a 1987 graduate and a member of the New College Alumni Association board of directors, is a partner at the Taft law firm in Cincinnati.
In 1998, he got a phone call from a farmer who knew Bilott’s grandmother in West Virginia. More than 150 of the farmer’s cows had died, after developing deformities and ailments. Bilott began looking into the case, eventually tracing the problem to a substance known as PFOA, in water coming from a DuPont landfill.
Bilott’s digging revealed that DuPont had known for years that the substance caused a variety of illnesses, including two cancers, and that DuPont had dumped PFOA into open pits that allowed it to enter the local water supply. In 2001, Bilott brought his findings to the Environmental Protection Agency and filed a class-action lawsuit in West Virginia.
By 2011, more than 3,500 personal injury lawsuits from West Virginia residents had been filed against DuPont. In 2017, DuPont agreed to pay $671 million to settle those lawsuits. To date, DuPont has paid more than $1 billion in penalties from the PFOA findings.
At Taft, he continues to represent a diverse range of clients on matters involving federal, state, and local environmental law. For more than 27 years, he has handled environmental issues of regulatory compliance, permitting and corporate/real estate transactions, as well as all aspects of litigation arising from such issues, from administrative hearings to multi-party, complex multi-district litigation, mass torts and class actions.
He has handled matters involving highly complex and emerging scientific issues with some of the nation’s leading medical, technical, scientific and regulatory experts and advisors. Such matters have included hazardous, solid, medical and infectious wastes, emerging and unregulated chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), such as PFOA and PFOS, air and water pollution and permitting, medical monitoring, brownfield redevelopment, landfill regulation and permitting, wastewater treatment, and chemical risk assessment, regulation and testing.
2019 Address: Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College, was the keynote speaker at New College of Florida’s 2019 Commencement. Read her address here.