Coalition of 22 State AGs Oppose 3M’s $12.5 Billion PFAS Settlement - Tradewinds Water Filtration

Coalition of 22 State AGs Oppose 3M’s $12.5 Billion PFAS Settlement

A bipartisan coalition of attorneys general (AGs) from 22 states is urging the federal district court in South Carolina to reject a proposed $12.5 billion settlement between 3M and a group of public water utilities, who are suing the company over alleged per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination.

The AGs’ coalition, which is led by California AG Rob Bonta, filed a motion to intervene in the litigation and an omnibus opposition on July 26. The AGs argue that the federal court should reject the settlement based on what they say is its overbroad indemnity clause, which Bonta’s statement on the coalition’s opposition contends could shift billions of dollars in liability onto nearly every public drinking water provider in the U.S., even those who have not sued or even tested for the presence of PFAS in their water systems.

In issue is the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary approval of the proposed $12.5 billion settlement, which was filed on July 3. The matter is pending before Judge Richard M. Gergel of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, who has ordered responses to the AGs’ motion to intervene be filed by August 2.

According to Bonta’s statement on the attempt to convince Judge Gergel to reject the settlement, water providers would withdraw hundreds of lawsuits they have filed against 3M over its use of PFAS — commonly referred to as toxic “forever chemicals” — in a wide range of consumer products and firefighting foams in exchange for a settlement that could leave them obligated to indemnify 3M if a cancer cluster later develops in a PFAS-impacted community and the victims sue 3M. The AGs’ opposition argues that the proposed settlement is thus worth far less than the advertised $10.5 billion to $12.5 billion.

PFAS are stable in the environment, resistant to degradation, persistent in soil, known to leach into groundwater and “can cause serious health impacts — including various forms of cancers, developmental defects, infertility, diabetes, and liver damage — and have been frequently detected in water systems nationwide,” Bonta said in the statement, adding that “[w]hile I appreciate the effort that went into it, the proposed settlement in its current form does not adequately account for the pernicious damage that 3M has done in so many of our communities.”

Joining Bonta in opposing the proposed settlement are the AGs for Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

California filed its own lawsuit against 3M and other PFAS manufacturers in November 2022, as have a lengthy list of other state AGs, including Tennessee AG Jonathan Skrmetti, who filed a lawsuit against 3M, DuPont, and numerous other PFAS manufacturers on May 31 in a matter that is now pending before U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Why It Matters

The AGs’ action demonstrates the emphasis that a large, bipartisan assortment of state AGs place upon maximizing their authority, under their respective state laws, to hold PFAS manufacturers financially liable for their alleged roles toward environmental contamination linked to PFAS.

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