Photo: MARC HERREMANS – MEDIA HOUSE
3M, the American chemical company that is considered responsible for the PFOS pollution in Zwijndrecht and the surrounding area, has received more than 5 million euros in subsidies from the Flemish government in recent years. This is apparent from data that Groen MP Mieke Schauvliege has requested.
According to Schauvliege, 3M has received 5.13 million euros in support from the various economy ministers since 2013. “Of this, 2 million came from the Flemish Climate Fund, in addition to money from other pots,” says the Groen MP.
“This has to stop”
In addition to this Flemish support, according to Schauvliege, 3M could also count on federal support, in particular a tax reduction for research and development. A condition for this support is a certificate from the Environment Department “proving that the new products and technologies have no negative effect on the environment or are intended to limit this as much as possible”. “It’s all horrifying when you know that this company pays a penny for the cleaning of the ground that it polluted itself,” says Schauvliege.
According to Schauvliege, it is “vengeful” that a company like 3M, which has a turnover of 300 million euros and a profit of 17 million euros, “passes the subsidy pot”. “The fact that large polluters can so easily get taxpayers’ money must urgently stop,” says the Groen politician.
She wants to question Flemish Minister of Economy Hilde Crevits about the Flemish support to 3M. “When Flemish ministers open the money tap wide for major polluters such as 3M, one wonders whether the Flemish government knows what it is doing”, says Schauvliege. Groen wants the Flemish government to claim the money back and that they “do not a few euros more to companies that violate environmental rules”.
“Multinationals get massive discounts”
For Flemish MP Hannes Anaf (Vooruit), the subsidies to 3M once again prove that the Flemish government prefers to look after companies rather than take care of its citizens. “Multinationals in Flanders receive massive discounts on the CO2 emission rights that they normally have to pay from Europe, on top of the subsidies that are granted to promote the energy transition. And that without any form of transparency and conditions,” says Anaf. “In the case of 3M, the Flemings pay twice, because they also continued to emit chemicals for years, polluting our water and our soil with irreversible damage to our health.”
Crevits has in the meantime instructed the inspection service of the agency VLAIO to check all files of support to 3M for the correct implementation of the investments and for compliance with the subsidy conditions. Legally, the options for recovery are being investigated.
It is critical that the government supports a company to work more efficiently and sustainably and that the company continues to pollute on the other hand, says Minister Crevits. She herself refers to the strategic transformation or ecology support that various ministers have granted three times in recent years. This concerns ecology support (887,542.56 euros) in 2014 for an investment for the production of solvent-free adhesives. In addition, in 2018 there was strategic transformation support (EUR 303.925.60) for training and a year later ecology support (EUR 341.235) for investments in a new thermal oxidation unit.
Like every application, these applications have also been tested against the eligibility conditions. The latter concerned an installation that reduces greenhouse gases, with an important effect on the total Flemish emissions. This concerns completely different substances than the PFAS that causes soil pollution and is therefore completely separate from it, emphasizes the minister. At the same time, a soil remediation project was also underway.