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DuPont legacy companies settle PFAS claims with Delaware

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DuPont legacy companies, including Chemours, Corteva and DuPont, have reached a $50 million settlement on PFAS use in Delaware with the state attorney general’s office. | DBT FILE PHOTO

WILMINGTON – In a landmark environmental justice settlement, the trio of companies that emerged from the legacy of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company – DuPont, Chemours and Corteva – have agreed to pay the state of Delaware $50 million to resolve claims connected to the use of so-called “forever chemicals.”

The funds will go toward environmental restoration, improvement, sampling and analysis, community environmental justice and equity grants, and other natural resource needs, according to Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings, who negotiated the agreement announced Tuesday. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control will administer the spending of the funds.

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings

“We all need to work collaboratively, fervently, and quickly to restore our natural resources and support our most vulnerable communities,” Jennings said in a statement. “Today’s agreement moves us miles ahead in that work. This is the most significant environmental settlement that the state of Delaware has ever secured, and it is being delivered on a timeline that matches the urgency of this moment.”

As liabilities in cases related to the historic DuPont company’s use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, have mounted in recent years, Chemours turned to the courts to sue its former partner companies over reimbursements. The chemicals, used in firefighting foam, nonstick cookware, water-repellent fabric and more, are sometimes called “forever chemicals” because of their extremely long degradation period in the environment.

PFAS includes a variety of chemicals that are associated with increased risk of cancer, including perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which was used in the production of DuPont’s longtime star product Teflon, which is now owned and produced by Chemours, until 2013.

As recently as December, the Delaware Supreme Court denied an appeal from Chemours against DuPont that argued that the former parent company lowballed its spinoff entity on the potential liability cost of its PFAS usage, saying it was required to go to mandatory arbitration under a 2017 settlement.

A new memorandum of understanding (MOU), worth upward of $4 billion, was brokered by the three companies in January. It replaces that 4-year-old settlement and the trio of companies concurrently agreed to resolve ongoing matters in a multi-district PFOA litigation in Ohio for $83 million.

The Delaware settlement agreement, which includes escalator clause worth up to $25 million in case the companies reach further larger PFAS-related claims with other states, is the first major payout from that MOU. DuPont and Corteva will each contribute $12.5 million while Chemours will contribute $25 million to the Delaware settlement, according to the terms of the deal.

The Delaware settlement is the result of an extensive investigation into the environmental impacts of legacy industrial activities in Delaware led by the Attorney General’s Office and averts a lawsuit that Jennings had been planning to file. The larger investigation remains ongoing, according to Jennings’ office.

“These companies have a long, proud history in our state. This agreement is a natural extension of that legacy and signifies a commitment to continue investing in the quality of life of our citizens and the health of our environment,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement.

The chief executives of each of the three companies released statements connected to the settlement remarking on their commitment to their home state of two centuries.

“We are privileged to live and work in this great state, and our actions today were very much motivated by our commitment to make a meaningful difference in the community we call home and our historical relationship with the state of Delaware,” said Mark Newman, the newly installed CEO of Chemours. “Rather than engaging in protracted and costly litigation, the state and our companies have set aside our differences and come together to put Delaware and its residents first.”

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