Photo: Mark Hermans – Media House
The US chemical company 3M responsible for PFOS contamination in Zuigendrecht and the surrounding area, has received more than 5 million euros in subsidies from the Flemish government in recent years. This is evident from the statements requested by the MP for Groen Mieke Schauvliege.
According to Schöflege, 3M has received €5.13 million in support from various economy ministers since 2013. “Of this amount, two million came from the Flemish Climate Fund, as well as money from other pots,” says the Gruen member of parliament.
“This has to stop.”
In addition to this Flemish support, according to Schöflege, 3M can also count on federal support, particularly tax cuts for research and development purposes. A requirement for this support is a certificate from the Environmental Department “proving that new products and technologies do not have a negative impact on the environment or are intended to reduce it as much as possible”. “It’s all terrifying when you learn that this company is paying a pretty penny to clean up land that has polluted itself,” Schoufleg says.
According to Schuflege, it is “revenge” that a company like 3M, which has a turnover of 300 million euros and profits of 17 million euros, is “beyond the support bowl.” “The fact that big polluters can so easily get taxpayers’ money must be stopped urgently,” says the Gruen politician.
She wants to question Flemish Economy Minister Hilda Krewitz about Flemish support for 3M. “When Flemish ministers open money wide open to major polluters like 3M, one wonders if the Flemish government knows what they are doing,” Schöflege says. More euros for companies that violate environmental rules.”
“Multinational companies get huge discounts”
For Flemish Member of Parliament Hannes Annaf (Vorwett), 3M’s subsidies prove once again that the Flemish government prefers to patronize companies rather than its own citizens. Multinational companies in Flanders receive huge discounts on the rights to carbon dioxide emissions they normally have to pay from Europe, as well as subsidies that are given to boost the energy transition. And that without any form of transparency and conditions. “In the case of 3M, the Flemings pay twice, because they’ve also been emitting chemicals for years, polluting water and soil with irreversible damage to our health.”
Meanwhile, Crevits has instructed VLAIO Agency Inspection Service to check all 3M support files for proper implementation of investments and compliance with support terms. Legally, recovery options are being investigated.
Minister Krevits says it is disturbing that the government is supporting the company to operate more efficiently and sustainably, and that the company continues to pollute on the other hand. She herself refers to the strategic shift or environmental support that different ministers have given three times in recent years. This relates to the environmental support (€887,542.56) in 2014 of an investment for the production of solvent-free adhesives. In addition, in 2018, there was a strategic turnaround support (€303,925.60) for training and support for the environment a year later (€341,235) for investments in a new thermo-oxidation unit.
Like every application, these applications have also been tested against the eligibility requirements. The latter relates to a facility that reduces greenhouse gases, with an important impact on Flemish total emissions. The Minister stresses that this relates to substances completely different from PFAS that cause soil contamination and therefore completely separate from it. At the same time, a soil remediation project was underway.
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