Fri, Dec 16, 2022 10:30 AM
By Tom Joyce, Center Square contributor, The Center Square
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced a $698 million settlement with the Monsanto Company (Monsanto) on Friday for its role in polluting Oregon with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) for more than 90 years. The settlement is the "largest environmental damage recovery in Oregon's history," Rosenblum said.Monsanto was the sole manufacturer, seller, and distributor of PCBs, the Oregon Attorney General’s office said in a press release.PCBs are toxic compounds found in coolants, electrical equipment (including fluorescent lighting fixtures), and hydraulic oils. In the past, PCBs have also been used in paint, caulking, and copy paper.“This is a huge win for our state,” Rosenblum said in the release. “PCBs are still present throughout Oregon — especially in our landfills and riverbeds — and they are exceedingly difficult to remove because they ‘bioaccumulate’ in fish and wildlife. Cleaning up our state from this horrific environmental degradation will be as costly and time-consuming as it sounds, but this settlement means we now will have resources to help tackle this problem.”The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Rosenblum against Monsanto in 2018. The complaint in the case alleged that Monsanto knew PCBs were highly toxic as early as 1937. However, Monsanto continued to produce the compounds until they were banned in 1977. In the lawsuit, the state sought damages for the harm caused to Oregon by PCB contamination, plus clean-up costs.“Monsanto’s toxic legacy, unfortunately, lives on in our lands, rivers, and other waterways – and poses ongoing risks to the health of our people and our environment,” Rosenblum said in the release. “This is all the more reason why this settlement is so vitally important. Oregon and Oregonians will be the better for it.”The Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) will work with the state legislature, Governor’s office, and other state agencies to allocate these newfound funds. “This settlement is a major step in beginning to reverse the harmful effects of PCBs on Oregon’s environment,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said in the release. “I’d like to thank the DOJ staff and attorneys who worked diligently to get us to this point. While it will take some time, I am pleased we can now move forward toward a healthier Oregon.”Bayer, the German pharmaceutical and biotechnology company that owns Monsanto, said in a statement that the settlement over “legacy Monsanto PCB products” fully resolves all Oregon’s claims and releases the company from any future liability. It said the Oregon agreement contains no admission of liability or wrongdoing by the company, according to The Washington Post.The Consent Judgement is available to read here.