May 19, 2024 10:49 pm
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State Wins Back Local Jurisdiction in PFAS Lawsuit Against 3M, Other Companies

Credit: iStock

by Hadley Barndollar, New Hampshire Bulletin

This story was updated to include a statement from 3M.

New Hampshire recently prevailed in returning a major PFAS lawsuit to the state superior court system, thought to be the first time any state has successfully rebuffed an attempt by 3M, a multinational manufacturing conglomerate, to move cases against it to federal court. 

A March 29 order by U.S. District Court Judge Landya McCafferty remanded the nearly four-year lawsuit against 3M, as well as DuPont and Chemours, back to the Merrimack County Superior Court. 

In a historic move in 2019, New Hampshire sued the three companies claiming they caused statewide environmental damage to soil, groundwater, surface water, and fish and other wildlife with their PFAS products. Then-Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said the goal was to recoup damages for the toxic PFAS chemical contamination found in all 10 counties.

Under federal statute, 3M was able to remove the lawsuit from the New Hampshire court system to federal district court in 2022, claiming some of the PFAS contamination in question came from aqueous film-forming foams it supplied to the U.S. military, warranting a federal venue.

But attorneys representing the state, including the Attorney General’s Office and Ken Sansone of SL Environment Law Group, argued the move was a tactic by 3M to delay the litigation process. 

In her March ruling, McCafferty sided with the state in its request to return the case back to the New Hampshire court system, agreeing that aqueous film-forming foams were subject of separate federal multidistrict litigation and that 3M had not demonstrated  a “nexus” existed between New Hampshire’s PFAS claims and the company’s production for the U.S. military.

“We’re pleased that the court saw 3M’s removal for what it was – a clear attempt to delay the progress of this important effort by the attorney general to force 3M and other PFAS manufacturers to take responsibility for paying for the cleanup of PFAS contamination in New Hampshire,” Sansone said in a statement. 

In 2019, 3M, which produces more than 60,000 products, sued New Hampshire over its PFAS drinking water limits, and successfully delayed implementation for a year. In December, the company announced it will stop making and using PFAS altogether by 2025. 

In a statement Friday, 3M said it “believes the New Hampshire state court case was appropriately removed to federal court, and is analyzing its options.”

Last month, the Valley News reported a law firm representing 3M has subpoenaed a number of New Hampshire towns for documentation related to PFAS at waste management stations.

This story was written by Hadley Barndollar, a reporter at the New Hampshire Bulletin, where this story first appeared.

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