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3M, DuPont PFAS settlements called inadequate by cities, other objectors

SOUTH CAROLINA (From news reports) -- U.S. cities, towns and water districts have challenged proposed class action settlements worth more than $11 billion with 3M, DuPont de Nemours and others, arguing the deals are too generous to the chemical companies accused of contaminating U.S. water with toxic "forever chemicals."

The objections were filed late Friday and Saturday in federal court in Charleston, South Carolina, by 22 governments and agencies in New York, Texas, Colorado, California and elsewhere. They said the settlements will not fully cover cleanup and legal costs facing water providers after the companies allegedly polluted drinking water with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

PFAS are used in a range of products from firefighting foam to non-stick cookware, and have been linked to cancer and hormonal dysfunction. The objections relate to a proposed deal between 3M and U.S. water providers for $10.3 billion and a separate $1.19 billion settlement agreed to by DuPont and spin-off companies Corteva and Chemours in June. Both settlements would end hundreds of lawsuits against the companies.

Many of the objectors said the settlement terms were too broad and could inappropriately release the companies from too much future potential liability over PFAS pollution -- including for remediation of soil or wastewater contamination, and from some personal injury claims.

"The funds proposed are grossly inadequate," said the City of Dallas, Texas, asking the court to reject the settlements until fixes are made.

Similar arguments were made by others including Tacoma, Washington, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which helps deliver water to 19 million people in the state.

Paul Napoli, an attorney with the law firm Napoli Shkolnik who negotiated the settlements on behalf of U.S. water providers, said in an email on Monday that he and other plaintiffs' attorneys take objections with "utmost seriousness." He said many of the concerns have already been resolved, or were raised by parties that are not members of the proposed class action settlements.

A DuPont spokesperson said the company is reviewing the objections and remains confident in the settlement.

A 3M spokesperson said its settlement would benefit water systems that provide drinking water to the "vast majority of Americans" without further litigation, and said the company would respond to the objections in court.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who is overseeing thousands of lawsuits against 3M, DuPont and others over PFAS contamination, granted preliminary approval for the two settlements in August.

A group of 22 U.S. states and territories led by California had earlier opposed the 3M deal over concerns it was too broad, but those objections were pulled back after several changes were made to the deal.

California and several other states and U.S. territories said then that they still think 3M should be paying more to settle the cases, but would no longer formally oppose it.

The DuPont settlement is scheduled for a final fairness hearing in December. The 3M settlement will receive a final look in February.

The case is In Re Aqueous Film-Forming Foams Products Liability Litigation, U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, case No. 2:18-mn-02873.

For Dallas and several other objectors: Jessica Ferrell and Jeff Kray of Marten Law

For the plaintiffs: Paul Napoli of Napoli Shkolnik; Michael London of Douglas & London; and Scott Summy of Baron & Budd

For 3M: Richard Bulger, Daniel Ring and Michael Olsen of Mayer Brown

For DuPont: Molly Craig of the Hood Law Firm

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