Wis. company ordered to pay for violations of storm water laws

Nick Rees Oct. 29, 2009, 4:03pm

Van Hollen

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - A Berlin, Wis., partnership has been ordered by Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge William D. Johnston to pay $194,271.50 for violations of storm water management laws at two construction sites.

Olsen Brothers Enterprises LLP and Paul E. Olsen, its principal partner, were found to be liable for numerous construction site storm water and erosion control violations that occurred during grain storage facility construction at site in Belmont and Boscobel, Wis.

"This case is about leveling the playing field for all of the other Wisconsin businesses who comply with the law," state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said.

"Judge Johnston made clear what we've been saying all along: It is not an acceptable business strategy to ignore environmental compliance at the front end of a project because it might be cheaper to pay for the violations at the conclusion."

Olsen and Olsen Brothers were found by the court to have begun construction at the grain storage sites without permits despite the knowledge that permits were required.

The defendants were also found to have failed to implement and maintain required Best Management Practices meant to prevent environmental harm that is associated with construction site erosion and to have failed to conduct the necessary inspections meant to reveal the extent of the harm that they caused.

The court stated, in its decision, that the defendants' "history in these operations appears to be that they would make the business decision, go forward with the project, and accept the costs for violation of the permitting procedure as a cost of doing business. Defendants uniquely argue that in so doing they should not be charged with forfeitures and costs assessments for potential damage from this practice, but for actual harm that has occurred."

The court also noted that the defendants, based on their evidentiary submissions, felt "great disdain" for state regulations that applied to their projects.

The court further noted that the defendants' projects were continued in violation of the law even after an enforcement action was brought against them, compelling the state to obtain a restraining order to cease construction at the Belmont site until a permit was obtained.

The court, after finding Olsen Brother sand Olsen liable, ordered them to pay $109,000 in forfeitures, $40,457.50 in statutory surcharges, $11,304.80 in investigatory costs for the Department of Natural Resources and $33,509.20 for the Department of Justice's attorneys fees and costs.

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