State of Minnesota, 3M reach settlement of $850M

The state of Minnesota and 3M reached a settlement worth $850 million dollars on Tuesday, and it's believed to be the largest environmental settlement in state history.

Under the settlement, the funds will be used to finance projects involving drinking water and water sustainability in the east metro area. Payments to the 3M Grant for Water Quality and Sustainability fund will be made over the next 15 days.

The suit all stems from alleged contamination out in the east metro areas, like Cottage Grove and Lake Elmo. 3M produced what are known as perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, used to make Scotchguard and other products.

During the trial, the state argued that 3M knew the chemicals would cause contamination, but hid the risk contamination posed to drinking water in the east metro. The state and 3M previously reached a deal to clean up the ground water contamination and provide safe drinking water, but the state still filed a lawsuit. 

“Minnesota learned a lesson from the tobacco trial, where the settlement money never compensated the victims. Instead, much of the money was sidetracked by the legislature to sell bonds to balance the budget. In this case, the money is being used to address some of the problems created by PFCs in our drinking water,” Swanson said in a release.

Swanson said she appreciated 3M’s willingness to resolve the matter, which was brought by the Attorney General and the Commissioners of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Under the settlement, the MPCA and/or the DNR will use the grant to "enhance the quality, quantity and sustainability of the drinking water in the East Metropolitan Area."

The agreement includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the cities of Woodbury, Oakdale, Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Afton and Newport, and the townships of West Lakeland and Grey Cloud Island.

Grant money will also be used for habitat and recreation improvements, such as fishing piers, trails and open space preservation.

Statement from Michael Schommer with Minnesota Department of Health:

“The Attorney General’s comments are inaccurate and disappointing. Our mission is to protect Minnesotans from negative health effects and inform them about threats to their health. We based our information on the best scientific information available without favor or prejudice. 

“Over the past several years, the Minnesota Department of Health has made public its conclusions about proven effects of PFCs that differ from the separate opinion provided last fall to the Attorney General. Thus it should come as no surprise that our most recent findings agreed with our previous reports in 2007 and 2015 and disagreed with the Attorney General’s. We believed it was important to provide this information as soon as possible for the benefit of the public and the parties in this litigation. We stand by that decision.”

Statement from Governor Dayton:

“This settlement is an enormously important advance to protect the health of over 67,000 Minnesotans in our East Metro area, who deserve clean and safe drinking water. I thank Attorney General Lori Swanson for her long and exceptionally hard work to obtain this settlement. Her success will greatly strengthen the protection of the region's water quality for present and future residents.

“I am also mindful that this settlement comes at the expense of a great Minnesota company, 3M, whose many positive contributions to our state and our citizens greatly exceed these unfortunate circumstances. I look forward to resuming our cordial working relationship and supporting 3M's continued success for many years to come.”

Statement from John Banovetz, Senior Vice President of Research & Development at 3M:

As many of you know, 3M has called Minnesota home for more than 115 years. Our 16,000 employees touch countless lives through our business, innovations and community investments.

I am pleased that we have reached a resolution in the State's lawsuit against 3M relating to the presence of certain PFCs in the environment.

This agreement reflects 3M's long-standing commitment to always acting with integrity and conducting business in an ethical and sustainable way. While we have never believed there is a PFC-related health issue, this agreement allows us to move past this litigation and work together with the state on activities and projects to benefit the environment and our communities.

We will partner with the State to continue our investment on sustainability. 3M will establish the "3M Grant for Water Quality and Sustainability" to enable projects that support water sustainability in the Twin Cities East Metro region, such as continued delivery of water to residents and enhancing groundwater recharge to support sustainable growth. These projects will also result in habitat and recreation improvements, such as fishing piers, trails, and open space preservation.

These actions exemplify 3M's long history of environmental stewardship, which includes already funding more than $100 million in projects to reduce the presence of PFCs in the environment.

Most importantly, we will continue to operate as we always have - with our focus on what is in the best interest of all who live and work in Minnesota and every other community in which we operate.