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Attorney General William Tong


Attorney General Tong Joins Multistate Coalition in Opposing 3M’s Proposed PFAS Settlement

Multistate Coalition Represents More Than Half of U.S. Population

(Hartford, CT) – Joining a coalition of 22 attorneys general, Attorney General William Tong today announced his opposition to a proposed class action settlement that fails to adequately hold accountable the 3M Company (3M) for contaminating Americans’ drinking water supply. Under the proposed settlement, drinking water providers would withdraw the hundreds of lawsuits they have filed against 3M over its use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly referred to as “PFAS” or toxic “forever chemicals” — in a wide range of consumer products and firefighting foams. PFAS are stable in the environment, resistant to degradation, persistent in soil, and known to leach into groundwater. The U.S. Geological Survey recently estimated that at least 45% of the nation’s tap water is contaminated by one or more toxic PFAS. PFAS is known to accumulate in the body and exposure to certain levels is increasingly associated with reproductive and developmental impacts, impaired immune systems, and an increased risk of some cancers. The proposed settlement is subject to court approval.

“PFAS forever chemicals are a toxic threat to public health. This proposed settlement does not come close to addressing the massive burden on our public water systems. Connecticut is acting on multiple levels of government to test, remediate, and evaluate all possible enforcement avenues to hold accountable those who created and contributed to this contamination. This settlement raises serious concerns about our sovereign rights to pursue recovery on behalf of our state, and unfairly pushes significant future liability onto our water systems. Potential class members, including Connecticut public water systems, have been given an unreasonably compressed timeframe to evaluate this proposed settlement, and I urge severe caution to all considering this option,” said Attorney General Tong.

The proposed settlement would apply to nearly every public water provider in the United States, even those that have not sued and even those that have yet to test for the presence of PFAS in their water. In return for waiving their claims, 3M would allegedly pay out $10.5 to $12.5 billion to water providers, an amount that is misleading because of certain provisions that could ultimately force water providers to reimburse 3M for its own liability.

In the brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, the multistate coalition warns that:

Individual water providers would be bound by the proposed settlement unless they proactively opt out, whether or not they have sued 3M or already tested for PFAS. Troublingly, they would have to make their opt-out decisions without knowing how much they would actually receive and, in many cases, before knowing the extent of contamination in their water supplies and the cost of remediating it.
The proposed settlement contains an unlimited indemnification clause, which shifts liability from 3M to water suppliers bound by settlement because they decided not to proactively opt-out. For example, if a cancer cluster develops in a PFAS-impacted community and the victims sue 3M, 3M would likely be able to seek compensation from the community’s public water supplier for any amount it owed to the victims – potentially for a greater amount than the public water supplier received in the settlement. As such, the proposed settlement is worth far less than the advertised $10.5 billion to $12.5 billion.

Joining Attorney General Tong in opposing the proposed settlement are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, as well as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The coalition was led by California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

A copy of the motion to intervene is available here and of the opposition here.

Assistant Attorneys General Christopher Kelly and Michael Lynch and Deputy Associate Attorney General Matthew Levine, Chief of the Environment Section, assisted the Attorney General in this matter.

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