Quick Guide: AGs to Forever Chemicals Cos: We Want More Money and We Want It Now

Launching off season 3 of State AG Pulse, Stephen Cobb and Emily Yu go behind the headlines on a multi-district litigation related to PFAS or “forever chemicals” playing out in district court. Despite a proposed settlement in the range of $10 – $12 billion, AGs are concerned about whether the amount will be sufficient to cover the needed remediation, and whether the manufacturers will have the financial means to make payments over the full duration of the settlement period.

(00:02): Stephen introduces himself and Emily and explains that in this episode they’ll be talking about PFAS – polyfluoroalkyl substances – otherwise known as forever chemicals, an area that state AGs have been focused on for many years.

(01:01): Emily sets the scene, describing the amicus letter filed by the state AGs in a district court where a huge multi-district litigation is happening between a class action of private litigants and 3M, one of the largest manufacturers of PFAS. She sets out the AGs’ wide-reaching, long term concerns as to how much these companies are going to pay to help remediate the damage caused, and how quickly.

(02:04): Stephen notes that PFAS cases result in very large settlements that AGs – in the billions of dollars – for cleanup and remediation efforts. He asks Emily to provide further details of the amicus letter and its significance.

(03:39): Emily explains that the letter to the district court in South Carolina that’s handling this multi-district litigation is led by AG Bonta in California and AGs from Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and DC have all signed on. She elaborates that this is such a big issue, in such a big piece of multi-district litigation, that the AGs have been very involved specifically with the 3M settlement process for a while.

(04:49): Stephen clarifies that sometimes AGs are an individual regulator but when they work together in multistate coalitions they are able to pursue large scale regulatory efforts, as they are doing here.

(05:52): Emily digs into more detail, disclosing that when the settlement was first proposed, there were 23 AGs representing bipartisan interests that filed in opposition to it. Now the group is much smaller. The AGs that dropped off voiced that they’re okay with what the settlement looks like thus far, in particular that this settlement doesn’t affect the states’ abilities to file their own suits. The remaining AGs still have concerns about two aspects of the settlement: 1) the dollar amount of $10.5 – $12 billion and whether it will be sufficient to deal with the aftermath of PFAS and 2) how long payment is going to take and whether PFAS companies will have the financial means to make good on payments spread over a 12-year period ending in 2036.

(09:03): Stephen summarizes the major take-aways from the case: 1) AGs’ focus on environmental enforcement, including clean air and clean water, which he believes is going to be a continuing area of interest that will expand beyond PFAS and forever chemicals, and 2) the importance of numbers, payment terms and speed.

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To read more about the news story on which this podcast is based, click here.