MADISON, Wis. – Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel has settled a pollution case with 3M that won’t require the company to pay any fines, which critics say will only encourage companies to ignore environmental regulations.
Schimel spokesman Johnny Koremenos told the Wisconsin State Journal that the Justice Department is proud of the settlement, which was reached in November.
As first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the agreement requires Maplewood-based 3M Co. to spend an estimated $665,000 by August 2018 on improvements to pollution control equipment that failed repeatedly at two plants in Wausau, Wis.
Top environmental regulators said they aren’t aware of any case in the past 25 years in which a state attorney general took a polluter to court without winning a penalty.
“This doesn’t provide effective deterrence for the companies that want to cut corners on pollution controls,” said George Meyer, who formerly led the Department of Natural Resource’s enforcement division.
Koremenos said the expenditures 3M has agreed to are by federal rules supposed to reduce penalties while producing environmental benefits beyond the requirements for a defendant’s compliance with the law.
The $665,000 is greater than the cost for the company to bring its facilities into compliance with the law, Koremenos said. He declined to say how much money was spent on meeting legal requirements and how much covered additional improvements.