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AG James Voices Opposition to 3M Class Action Settlement


New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday announced her opposition to a proposed class action settlement with the 3M Company that in her opinion, “fails to hold the company accountable for contaminating the drinking water of millions of Americans.”

Together with a bipartisan group of 22 other attorneys general, Attorney General James noted that under the proposed settlement, public water systems 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. The water systems would also have to withdraw their lawsuits without knowing what settlement funds they would receive from 3M. PFAS chemicals resist degradation in the environment and accumulate in the body. Health effects associated with exposure to them include kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, immune system effects, and other conditions.

“These toxic ‘forever chemicals’ have contaminated water supplies across the nation, including here in New York, and have caused devastating health problems,” said Attorney General James. “This proposed settlement would allow 3M to skirt responsibility for their pollution and could leave taxpayers on the hook for expensive cleanup efforts. New Yorkers have a basic right to clean drinking water, and I will not allow corporate polluters to avoid their responsibility to clean up their messes.”

States and municipalities have filed thousands of lawsuits against 3M and other companies in recent years for their role in PFAS pollution. PFAS chemicals tend to be persistent in the environment and have been used for decades as ingredients in fabrics, cosmetics, cookware, and more. According to the New York State Department of Health, PFAS have been detected in almost 40 percent of public drinking water supplies in the state, including 60 percent of systems serving more than 10,000 people. To date, New York has spent tens of millions of dollars on PFAS cleanup-related costs.

In the brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, the bipartisan, multistate coalition warns that the proposed settlement would apply to thousands of public water systems in the United States, even those that have not sued and those that have yet to test for the presence of PFAS in their water.

Eligible water systems would be bound by the proposed settlement unless they proactively opt-out, and would have to do so without knowing what settlement funds they could receive. Additionally, water systems would have to opt-out in many cases before knowing the extent of contamination in their water supplies and the ongoing cost of remediating a “forever chemical”. In return for waiving their claims, 3M would pay out $10.5 to $12.5 billion to water providers, an amount that may be worth far less or even exceed the recovery because certain provisions may require water providers to indemnify 3M.

Joining Attorney General James in opposing the proposed settlement are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, as well as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

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