Menard Up for WMC Environmental Award

May 26, 2016

Menards Store

A billionaire businessman who set consecutive records for the highest penalties ever paid for environmental violations in Wisconsin has been nominated for an environmental award from the state’s largest business group.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce says Menard Inc., which is founded and owned by John Menard Jr., is among 32 businesses nominated for WMC’s Business Friend of the Environment awards. Nine winners will be selected from among the nominees by a panel, which includes representatives from the Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin.

A WMC executive called the nominees “industry leaders in keeping our environment clean and creating cutting edge innovations. In Wisconsin, we are very fortunate to have so many companies that go above and beyond the environmental regulatory standards and protect our environment for our state.”

WMC uses its lobbying muscle and millions of dollars in secret fundraising and spending to back conservative and Republican candidates in statewide and legislative elections. And in recent years, the GOP-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker have loosened environmental regulations and enforcement of numerous air, water and other pollution at the behest of WMC and other special interests. Some of the most serious environmental deregulation was cited recently in a Democracy Campaign report called “Walker’s Worst 100.”

Both Menard and his company have paid about $3.9 million in fines over the past 20 years for violating environmental rules. Some of those incidents include:

  • $30,000 in fines and court costs in 2011 for violating state laws against hazardous waste disposal for a 2007 incident in which a pallet of herbicide was dumped on a parking island at a Menards store in Onalaska;
  • $68,125 in penalties in 2006 to settle an administrative order brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against Menards for damaging a Sioux Falls, S.D. stream that ran through its property by filling in nearly 1,400 feet of the stream and replacing it with a 66-inch storm sewer pipe;
  • A $2 million fine in 2005 after Department of Natural Resources officials found a floor drain at a company shop that they believe was used to dump paint, solvents, oil and other waste that fed into a tributary of the Chippewa River. The sanction broke the previous record for a state environmental fine of $1.7 million set in 1997, also by Menard;
  • A $1.7 million fine in 1997 for 21 violations that occurred when Menard used his pickup truck to haul plastic bags of chromium and arsenic-laden wood ash to his home to dispose of with the household trash. Menard pleaded no contest to felony and misdemeanor charges involving records violations, unlawful transportation and improper disposal of hazardous;
  • A $160,000 state penalty in 1994 in a civil judgment against Menards for transporting and disposing of ash produced by incinerating CCA-treated lumber without a license. Wood treated with CCA contains carcinogen and is considered hazardous waste that requires disposal in a licensed landfill.