Attorney general defends decision not to fine polluter

By The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis.--Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel has settled a case with no fine at all after years of declining financial penalties for Wisconsin polluters.

Schimel defended the action in front of the legislature's Joint Finance Committee on Wednesday and said the Justice Department is proud of the court settlement reached in November.

"Remember," Schimel, "they (3M) self-reported."

He said the hope is that more companies in violation of environmental laws would do the same before they get caught.

"We leveraged concessions out of them we wouldn't have gotten if we'd just gone forward and gotten a forfeiture," he argued to lawmakers.

The agreement requires 3M to spend an estimated $665,000 by August 2018 on improvements to pollution control equipment that failed repeatedly at two plants in Wausau.

Democratic state representative, Katrina Shankland told Schimel, "I'm concerned about the precedent you're setting by letting polluters off the hook."

Top environmental regulators say they weren't aware of any case in the last 25 years in which a state attorney general took a polluter to court without winning a penalty.

George Meyer, former secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, says the settlement doesn't deter companies that want to be lax on pollution control.