Dow Chemical will pay just $2.5 million in fines for several longstanding environmental problems at the company’s Midland complex in Michigan. It took the chemical giant almost four years to formally address problems identified by regulators, and the company will not admit any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, federal officials still cheered the settlement as a victory:
On July 29 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Dept. said that Dow has agreed to a pay a $2.5 million fine for practices that regulators found violated federal environmental laws and endangered public health.
The alleged violations were identified during inspections that took place between 2005 and 2007. Officials said it took years to investigate and negotiate a comprehensive settlement to address all the violations at Dow’s large Midland complex.
In a 24 count complaint filed in the Eastern District of Michigan court along with the settlement, the government accused Dow of violating Clean Air Act rules for monitoring and repairing leaking equipment, for demonstrating compliance with rules for chemical, pharmaceutical and pesticide manufacturing, and for failing to comply with reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
Dow also violated the Clean Water Act’s “prohibition against discharging pollutants without a permit.” In November 2007 the EPA notified Dow it found potential clean air and hazardous waste violations, which may have increased public exposure to hazardous pollutants that can cause serious health effects including birth defects and cancer.
According to the EPA, Dow’s Midland facility released 275,912 pounds of toxic chemicals in the last year. Craig Harris, a specialist in environmental sociology at Michigan State University, points out that during the time the violations occurred, Dow booked at least $6.2 billion in profits. “In other words,” he says, “the fine to which ‘our’ government agency has agreed represents less than one-half of one-tenth of one percent of Dow’s net income during the period of the infractions.”
“It’s hard to see how this reduces the incentive for future violations, as the U.S. EPA press release claims,” Harris observes.
(HT: Washington Independent)