Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Schimel releases opaque '17 environmental summary

Business-friendly Wisconsin GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel, having previously shrunk his department's once-high profile Environmental Protection Unit and down-graded its institutional memory and former lead prosector, the now-retired Tom Dawson, released a summary of 2017 environmental actions that goes out of its way to be user-unfriendly.

The summary is five paragraphs long, offers no year-to-year comparisons or trends, and does not mention in the release text the name of a single polluter fined or otherwise targeted, leaving the reader to guess, "Jeopardy"-style, at the company's identity.

Corporate names do show up in tiny little type in an attached Judgement Log spreadsheet. Not every media report on the news release is going to include the log or cross-check it with the release. 

The obfuscation is unnecessary.

So reading the text, we assume the company vaguely described as "a manufacturing facility in Marshfield" allowed to install pollution controls without a fine is a 3M plant, as I noted earlier this year, but why should a citizen have to guess or go to log?

Ditto for the "groundwater contamination case in Madison." It is probably related to the lingering problems at the Kipp plant - - and a matter about which neighbors have long complained and looks likely to continue:

The agreement allows the company to indefinitely postpone removal of very high concentrations of PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls — beneath its plant on Waubesa Street. The company is required to establish a bond or other financial assurance of up to $1.65 million within five years for future cleanup of soil under the plant.
Nearly $119,000 of Madison-Kipp’s penalty is in the form of a fine....
Under Republican state Attorney General Brad Schimel and Gov. Scott Walker, fines for polluters have dwindled.
The $119,000 Madison-Kipp fine resembles fines for less serious record-keeping violations under previous administrations, said Carl Sinderbrand, a Madison attorney... who worked in the Justice Department’s environmental unit from 1979 to 1990.
By the way, here is the actual type font and size used in the log. Get out your magnifying glasses.

11/27/17 MadisonKipp Corporation $118,960.88

I see little in the details or the structure of AG's release to cheer about, though his kid gloves approach will be welcomed by the toxic mining companies now with permission to do business in Wisconsin, and certainly at the Foxconn project for whom routine environmental reviews and rules were eliminated with the support of Big Business.

All of which has been the aim of Walker and his allies since Day One.

Here is the AG's report, in full:

AG Schimel Announces Environmental Protection Unit Enforcement Results

Jan 3 2018
MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) Environmental Protection Unit has released its environmental enforcement results for the fourth quarter of 2017. The unit obtained judgments in 15 state enforcement cases and in one federal Superfund case that was prosecuted jointly with the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Minnesota. The state judgments totaled $714,540 in forfeitures and related surcharges, plus an additional $17,826,000 in projects designed to protect public health and the environment. The joint federal case secured $332,000 that is intended to be used primarily for wild rice restoration projects on the Wisconsin side of the St. Louis River Estuary near Superior, Wisconsin as part of an overall $8.2 million settlement.

“DOJ continues to prioritize the important work of enforcing the state’s environmental and natural resources laws,” said Attorney General Brad Schimel. “The talented individuals in DOJ’s Environmental Protection Unit are dedicated to helping protect and restore our state’s natural resources. We have made great progress in 2017 working with our federal partners to secure robust financial commitments to clean up some of our state’s most contaminated sites through aggressive enforcement of the nation’s Superfund law.”

The state enforcement actions resolved civil prosecutions for air pollution control violations, hazardous waste spills, pollutant discharges to surface waters, hazardous waste management violations, and improper abandonment of underground petroleum storage tanks. In one case, DOJ secured an $8 million commitment from a manufacturing facility in Marshfield to upgrade an industrial dryer and associated air pollution control equipment, in addition to agreeing to implement an enhanced fugitive dust control program.

In an unrelated case, DOJ worked with a chemical manufacturing company to resolve a decades-long dispute over historic groundwater contamination near Cottage Grove. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to finalize site investigation and remedial design activities at an estimated cost of $6 million and committed to implement a long-term remedy to address remaining environmental concerns; the value of that remedy has yet to be estimated. In other unrelated cases, DOJ finalized a $4 million settlement to resolve a groundwater contamination case in Madison, and secured a $106,000 commitment from a hazardous waste management company in Marinette to reduce hazardous air pollutant emissions on top of paying a $100,000 penalty.

For the year, DOJ completed 49 state environmental enforcement cases resulting in $1,450,026 in forfeitures and related surcharges and secured an additional $18,588,500 for environmental projects, for a total judgment value of $20,038,526. The three joint federal Superfund cases settled in 2017 secured $242,332,000 in future restoration commitments for the state’s natural resources.

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