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Court delays action in environmental suit against 3M

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Supreme Court has delayed action involving the state’s lawsuit accusing 3M Co. of damaging the environment.

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The court, asked to decide whether the state’s legal firm should be disqualified, kicked that decision back down to a lower court for more fact-finding.

The attorney general is suing 3M for allegedly damaging the environment with perfluorochemicals, or PFCs. But 3M has argued that the attorney general’s law firm, Covington & Burling LLC, should be disqualified because Covington previously worked with 3M.

A Hennepin County District Court ruled in 3M’s favor in 2012, against Covington and the attorney general. On appeal, the Supreme Court issued its ruling Wednesday that one issue needed more study — whether 3M knew that its former law firm had switched sides.

The environmental lawsuit involves traces of PFCs made by 3M and other companies, which have been found in people and animals around the world. In Minnesota, the chemicals have been discovered in the Mississippi River, several lakes and the groundwater in parts of Washington County.

“3M polluted the waters, and this case is about getting the company to make it right,” said attorney general spokesman Ben Wogsland.