(June 24, 2020) - Today, the City of Portland joins with 12 other governmental entities to announce a proposed nationwide class action settlement with Monsanto Company, Pharmacia, LLC, and Solutia, Inc., for $550 million. The settlement would resolve national PCB water contamination claims for a proposed class of over 2,500 governmental entities, including the City of Portland.
Legal motions to approve the proposed settlement class are being filed today in federal court in the Central District of California, in a case before Judge Fernando M. Olguin.
In addition to the $550 million in settlement funds, Monsanto is agreeing to pay attorneys’ fees separately.
Over a dozen lawsuits have been filed by governmental entities since March 2015 seeking cost recovery for stormwater and environmental contamination caused by chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which Monsanto manufactured between the 1930s and 1977. Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of those chemicals.
The City initially filed suit in 2016 seeking cost recovery for environmental damages resulting from PCB use in Portland. This proposed settlement would resolve that lawsuit. PCBs are persistent and toxic contaminants that are expensive to clean up. The City had evidence that Monsanto became aware of how toxic and dangerous PCBs were during the time it manufactured its PCB containing products, and that the company concealed that information.
“Monsanto was aware it was manufacturing harmful toxic chemicals and it continued to do so for many years,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler. “Today, we are holding Monsanto accountable for its reckless actions that caused harm to our community. The impacts to PCBs on our community are not quantifiable, but this settlement is one way to address decades worth of harm.”
The City intends to focus settlement funds towards Black, Indigenous, and communities of color that have been disproportionately burdened by both the contamination and the need for environmental cleanup. The City will continue to engage with community groups to inform this work.
The City will know the exact portion of the $550 million settlement money it stands to receive after the proposed class action is approved by the Court. This process may take several months.
The proposed class action must be approved by Judge Olguin prior to providing payments to the governmental entity class members. If approved, the settlement will provide all class members with a monetary benefit and will additionally provide funds for any governmental entities that have incurred or will incur significant expenses to protect and remediate America’s waterways.
The City of Portland joins the named class plaintiffs leading the nationwide resolution, which include the Port of Portland, City of Spokane, City of Tacoma, the City of Berkeley, the City of Oakland, the City of San Jose, County of Los Angeles, City of Long Beach, City of San Diego, City of Chula Vista, City of Baltimore, and County of Baltimore. The cases were collectively litigated for over five years and were mediated and resolved through JAMS Mediator Judge (Ret.) Jay Gandhi.