Wisconsin AG Kaul files suit against Didion, alleging dozens of environmental violations

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is filing a suit against Didion Milling and Didion Ethanol, alleging multiple environmental violations.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is accusing Didion of violating air pollution control permits at its milling and ethanol production facilities in Columbia County. The facilities, the DOJ claims, are a “major source” of emissions for carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds.

“Permitted facilities must comply with the terms of their permits so that the safety, health, and wellbeing of Wisconsinites aren’t endangered,” Kaul said in a statement announcing the suit. “When those terms are violated, DOJ is committed to holding the responsible parties accountable.”

The complaint filed in Columbia County court accuses Didion of 30 violations, including those for emissions control, leak detection, inspection and recordkeeping, control device monitoring, emissions inventory, and reporting.

The DOJ says it worked closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in preparing the 47-page complaint against Didion, which details alleged violations dating back to 2019.

As part of the complaint, the DOJ and Kaul asked the Columbia County Circuit Court to grant an injunction to require Didion to operate the facilities in compliance with all of its permits and within state laws on air pollution, as well as require Didion to pay a number of fines and environmental surcharges for the alleged violations.

The violations outlined in the complaint are not directly related to the deadly explosion at Didion Milling on May 31, 2017, although the complaint does note the explosion and the fact that Didion continues to contest $1.8 million in fines levied by OSHA. The investigation into the blast found it was caused by a failure to correct leaks, the accumulation of highly-combustible grain dust, and a failure to properly maintain equipment to control ignition sources.

In May of this year, nearly five years after the explosion, Didion Milling and several high-ranking officials were indicted for multiple federal crimes related to the blast, including conspiracy to conceal violations that led to the explosion.

In a statement, the company said it was “disappointed and surprised” about the decision to file the complaint.

The full statement reads:

“We are disappointed and surprised by the department’s decision to file the complaint. Didion operates pursuant to numerous air permits that ensure that our operations do not harm the environment.

“The state’s allegations mostly involve paperwork and record keeping issues associated with these permits. We have been cooperating with department officials to understand and address their concerns, and we will continue those efforts going forward.

“Our team always has and always will put compliance and the safety of our team members and partners at the forefront of our work.”