The court-approved agreement settling the lawsuit specifies how the grant from 3M can be spent by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Department of Natural resources (DNR). It sets two top priorities for funding and provides guidelines for using any remaining money after those two issues are adequately addressed. It also directs the MPCA and DNR to set up a working group to guide use of the funds.
Priority one — Ensure safe and sustainable drinking water
With PFAS having contaminated domestic water supplies in a number of southeast metro communities, the top priority for grant funds will be projects aimed at providing a clean, sustainable supply of drinking water in the area.
Grant funds also could support efforts to assure a sustainable supply of drinking water, with projects such as promoting water conservation or acquiring open spaces that help recharge drinking water sources more quickly.
Priority two — Enhance natural resources
The second priority for grant spending is to enhance aquatic resources, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreational opportunities in the east metropolitan area, or downstream of the area on the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers.
The MPCA and DNR will have immediate access to $20 million in grant funds for projects in this priority category. After the safe drinking water goals of the first priority are reasonably achieved, more grant money can be used for natural resource projects.
Remaining settlement funds
If funds remain after the first two priority goals have been met, they can be used for statewide environmental projects. As a practical matter, it will be several years from now, at the earliest, before any statewide projects would be considered for funding. This is because of the substantial needs outlined in the top two priorities. This portion of the settlement language was included to address whatever small portion of funds may remain at the end of exhaustive work on the top priorities.
What is Natural Resource Damage?
Wildlife, water, air, and other natural resources can be injured when oil or other pollutants are released into the environment. When this happens, the state is authorized to recover damages in order to restore, rehabilitate, or replace the natural resources and services that were lost.
If significant environmental harm occurs, a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) may be initiated. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are co-trustees of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA).