May 22, 2024

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From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Monsanto to pay Oregon $698 million in PCB settlement

2 min read
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced the largest environmental damage recovery in state history Dec. 15.

from the Oregon Department of Justice

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced a historic $698 million dollar settlement with the Monsanto Company for its role in polluting Oregon with polychlorinated biphenyls for the past 90-plus years. 

Monsanto was the only manufacturer, seller, and distributor of PCBs. 

PCBs are toxic compounds formerly used in coolants, devices, hydraulic oils, and electrical equipment such as fluorescent lighting fixtures. They were also previously used in products, including paint, caulking, and copy paper.

“This is a huge win for our state,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. “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.”

Monsanto is owned by Bayer AG, a massive German pharmaceutical and biotechnology company.

The Dec. 15 settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Rosenblum against Monsanto in 2018. The original lawsuit can be found here.

The complaint in the case alleged Monsanto was aware as early as 1937 of the highly toxic nature of PCBs. Even with that knowledge, Oregon asserted, Monsanto continued to produce and promote the compounds for decades — until they were finally banned in 1977. The lawsuit asked for damages for the extensive harm to Oregon from PCB contamination, as well as 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 added.  “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, led by the attorney general, will be working with the legislature, the governor, and state agencies to put the funds to use for statewide remediation and clean-up.

“This settlement is a major step in beginning to reverse the harmful effects of PCBs on Oregon’s environment. 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,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

Rosenblum thanked the lawyers and staff at DOJ and at Resolution Strategies, Stoll Berne, and Keller Rohrback, without whose tireless efforts the State could not have reached such an outstanding result.

Lawyers from DOJ who worked on this case include Elleanor Chin and Deanna Chang from DOJ’s Trial Division, and Paul Garrahan, Gary Vrooman and John McCormick from its General Counsel Division.

A copy of the consent judgement can be found here.

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