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MPCA reports 118 polluter penalties for second half of 2023

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MPCA reports 118 polluter penalties for second half of 2023

Feb 26, 2024 | 4:12 pm ET
By Christopher Ingraham
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MPCA reports 118 polluter penalties for second half of 2023
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Industrial smoke, which can contain precursor chemicals for ozone formation (Getty Images)

On Monday the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reported 118 enforcement actions on dozens of polluters in the second half of 2023. The cases include violations of clean air, clean water, stormwater, wastewater and solid waste law, with penalties ranging from several hundred dollars into the millions.

“Penalties are calculated using several factors,” according to the agency. “Including harm done or potential for harm to the environment, the economic benefit the company gained by failing to comply with environmental laws, or how responsive and cooperative a regulated party was in correcting problems.”

The largest penalty, $1.25 million, was levied against ConAgra foods for exceeding hydrogen sulfide gas limits on more than 2,500 occasions at its fruit and vegetable processing facility in Waseca between 2020 and 2022. The company also had to spend $7 million on new equipment to limit those emissions.

The second largest fine of $200,000 was imposed against several Circle K and Holiday gas stations for underground storage tank violations. The companies also had to spend $3.25 million on new tanks at additional locations.

A separate group of gas stations owned by Molo-Twin LLC and Twin City Petroleum and Properties were fined more than $100,000 for similar failures to ensure the safety of their gasoline storage equipment.

Other top violators included:

  • A St. Paul foundry that failed to report changes to its emissions control equipment ($41,500 fine).
  • A Two Harbors resort company that broke ground on new construction without obtaining a stormwater permit or putting erosion controls in place ($32,500).
  • A Plainview dairy cooperative that dumped nearly 7,000 gallons of cream into a ditch, overwhelming the town’s wastewater treatment plant and causing it to shut down for days ($20,000). 

The agency also took enforcement actions against other state government entities, including the state Department of Transportation for construction stormwater violations, as well as several municipal governments that violated wastewater and solid waste rules.

The MPCA says that mild or first-time offenses often result in a written warning, and that monetary penalties are typically reserved for “serious or repeat violations.”