Twenty-Three AGs Oppose Settlement with 3M over PFAS Drinking Water Contamination

In July 2023, California Attorney General Rob Bonta led a coalition of 23 attorneys general in filing a motion to intervene and an opposition to a proposed settlement of a class action (brought by several municipalities, counties, and water utilities) with 3M over allegations that the company contaminated drinking water with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals” for their resistance to breaking down in the human body and the environment. Under the settlement, nearly every public water provider in the country would either forfeit their right to file future lawsuits or be required to withdraw existing lawsuits (of which there are hundreds) against 3M over its use of PFAS leading to widespread contamination of drinking water, in exchange for a $10.5-12.5 billion payout—though the AGs pointed out in their opposition that the payout could amount to far less due to certain reimbursements 3M would require as part of the settlement. The AGs also explained that because the settlement would apply to many providers that have not even tested their water for PFAS yet, providers would have to opt out of suing 3M without even knowing the extent of the contamination or how much money they could receive from a lawsuit. The AGs asked the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina to reject the proposed settlement.

In August 2023, following negotiations between the coalition and 3M, a revised settlement was announced that addressed many issues raised in the AGs’ opposition, and raised the settlement payout value.