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Dallas Morning News Publishes Kazan Law EFH Rebuttal

Kazan Law EFH RebuttalA letter I wrote in rebuttal to the head of a fuel conglomerate’s deceptive open letter to Texans has been published by the Dallas Morning News, the newspaper that originally published the piece by Hunter L. Hunt, chairman and CEO of Hunt Consolidated Energy. The Kazan Law rebuttal letter is another effort to provide all pertinent information to possible EFH asbestos victims.

In his letter, Hunt praised his company’s proposed acquisition of Oncor Electric Delivery Company. But he conveniently left out the fact that because of this acquisition thousands of EFH’s potential asbestos victims have been stripped of significant legal rights.

Hunt Buying Oncor From EFH

Hunt Consolidated put together a deal to take over Oncor, the biggest power distributor in Texas. The deal would help end the $40 billion bankruptcy of Oncor’s parent company Energy Future Holdings (EFH).

EFH is selling Oncor, the primary piece of its portfolio, to the Hunt group for $19 billion as a way to try to get out of bankruptcy. EFH had filed for bankruptcy in April 2014. At that time, it listed liabilities of over $40 billion.

EFH has accepted Hunt’s purchase offer. If the deal wins approval by the Texas Public Utilities Commission, EFH would be split into two companies owned by different sets of lenders.

Hunt would get Oncor, which sends power to more than 3 million Texas customers over 119,000 miles of power lines.

Hunt is the lead of a group of investors seeking to participate in the purchase. The Hunt group includes Anchorage Capital Group, Arrowgrass Capital Partners, Avenue Capital Group, BlackRock, Centerbridge Partners, GSO Capital Partners and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, according to media reports.

Hunt Letter Doesn’t Tell Whole Story

In his open letter, Hunt invokes everything but mom and apple pie in order to sway the officials who have to approve of his Oncor purchase.

“As the Public Utility Commission of Texas considers Hunt’s proposal to acquire Oncor, I want to share why we believe our proposal is in the best interest of customers, our fellow Texans, and the economic health of Texas,” he says.

He goes on to say, “For more than 80 years, Hunt has been active in Oncor’s communities. We know that the local utility is the bedrock of every town and city in Texas. The utility turns on the lights at the churches, the football stadiums, the schools, the community centers and, most importantly, our homes.”

What he conveniently doesn’t say is that at Hunt’s insistence, all those exposed to EFH’s asbestos products and services since the 1930s were swept into an EFH bankruptcy provision that took away their rights to sue for unlawful asbestos exposure if they get sick.

Asbestos Claims Cut Off By EFH Bankruptcy

Hunt ensured that Energy Futures Holding (EFH), with known asbestos claims against it, was able to drastically limit the legal rights of all its past, present and future asbestos victims as part of its bankruptcy. This was done to make sure that Hunt would not have to compensate people who may become fatally ill from being exposed to asbestos while they or a family member worked at a facility where EFH handled asbestos.

Anyone who ever worked at any EFH site or had a family member who did, would have had to file a claim by December 14, 2015 or lose all rights to make any asbestos claims against EFH, its subsidiaries and its insurance companies, even if they are not sick yet.

Asbestos insulation was widely used in power plants built before 1980. But the toxicity of asbestos was already well-established at that time and less dangerous substitutes were available. The plants could have been retro-fitted with nontoxic materials but they were not.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the EPA have determined that asbestos is a human carcinogen and there is no safe level of exposure.

By denying those who may develop mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease the right to sue, Hunt is being allowed to potentially get away with murder.

Kazan Law EFH Rebuttal: Text of the Published Letter

Here in its entirety is the text of my published letter exactly as it appeared in the Dallas Morning News:

“Hunt’s op-ed piece sounds good but is grossly misleading. I am counsel to an asbestos widow who serves as a member of the Energy Future Holdings creditors’ committee in the EFH bankruptcy and to objectors who are appealing the order confirming the EFH deal with the Hunt group. As part of this deal, Hunt and his lawyers have insisted on eliminating the rights of all Luminant and Oncor employees and their families, as well as the rights of thousands of other Texans and other Americans, to fair compensation for fatal asbestos cancers that could occur in the decades ahead caused by work an EFH company did at 1,000 power plants around the world.

I agree with Hunt that it is important for the Texas PUC and all Texans to “see the facts and understand the details,” since once they understand what is truly at stake here they will conclude it would be a disaster to join him “in supporting the Hunt proposal as the very best way forward for Oncor and all of those dependent on Oncor in their daily lives.”

Steven Kazan, Oakland, Calif., Managing Partner, Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood

 

 

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