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AG Nessel Reaffirms Support for Flint Water Settlement During Fairness Hearing

LANSING - After months-long negotiations and court proceedings, the State made its final statement in support of final approval of the Flint water civil settlement.

The fairness hearing, which began Monday morning in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, will determine whether the historic $600 million settlement is fair, adequate and reasonable.

Assistant Attorney General Margaret Bettenhausen - one of the lead attorneys who negotiated the settlement - spoke before Judge Judith Levy on behalf of the State.

"This settlement is an important step forward in the long process of helping the City of Flint and its residents heal.  It is a key part of a larger effort to make amends with the people of Flint who have faced so much uncertainty and hardship since the day their water supply was switched to the Flint River on April 25, 2014," Bettenhausen said in part. "The effort to reach this settlement reflects Governor Whitmer's and Attorney General Nessel's steadfast commitment to finding the best resolution possible to this extremely complicated and difficult situation, and to reach that resolution in a time frame that avoids what would otherwise be years more of litigation and uncertainty for the people of Flint and the State.  Right when they took office, Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel made it a priority to bring these civil cases to a close through a settlement that was as fair and reasonable as possible for everyone.  With their resolve, the settlement process took off."

In August, AG Nessel and Gov. Whitmer announced the State's portion of the preliminary agreement to settle the lawsuits filed against the State after the City of Flint switched is public water supply to the Flint River in 2014.

Judge Levy gave preliminary approval to the settlement in January, which established the process through which Flint residents could indicate their intention to file eligible settlement claims that will be processed and paid by the claims administrator.

The registration period resulted in about 85,000 filings. A data review is now underway to verify registrations are authentic and no duplicates exist.

The claims period is expected to commence by August. Once the claims period begins, registered Flint residents will have 120 days to file the documents necessary to support their claims.

"As you have heard, the settlement presented to you is the product of lengthy, thorough, hard-fought, and much debated negotiations.  The settling parties advocated their positions vigorously and tirelessly over a long period of time.  Every line or paragraph of this agreement and its hundreds of pages of exhibits reflects a lot of fair-minded, arms-length negotiation by the respective sides," AAG Bettenhausen added in her statement. "...It is important to note that the State understands that money does not remedy every wrong.  For example, money may not rebuild one's trust in their government.  The settlement before this Court does not change what happened in Flint; no settlement could.  But we have worked diligently to indemnify the residents of Flint to the best of our abilities.  And this settlement is by no means the limit or end of the State's commitment to supporting the City of Flint and its families.  It is one step - and a very important step - in helping all of us move forward together and create the brighter future that the people of Flint and the State of Michigan deserve."

The fairness hearing is scheduled to continue Tuesday and Thursday. A final ruling is anticipated to be entered later this summer.

A detailed explanation of this week's proceedings can be found on the court's website. Those who wish to monitor the hearing can do so by requesting virtual courtroom access.

AG Nessel provided the following statement in response to the State summarizing its support for the Flint water civil settlement Monday:

"Providing relief for the people of Flint after enduring unimaginable hardship has been a top priority for me as Attorney General," Nessel said. "I am proud of the tireless work that brought us to this point in the settlement process. Our state owes the people of Flint a path toward healing, not a drawn out legal back-and-forth. I remain hopeful this agreement will receive final approval in order to put us all on that path. We acknowledge no amount of money will ever erase the damage done, but this settlement should serve as a reminder of our commitment to Flint residents, the city and its future."