A long time ago, someone devised a plan to list the fines for speeding right on the speed-limit signs in order to discourage speeders. It seemed like a good idea, until someone else realized that people who decided they could afford the fines would just keep on speeding.
That happens a lot in industry. Companies that pollute the environment regularly pay government fines because it's cheaper than installing the equipment needed to comply with the laws.
So we're encouraged by a plan from the Niskayuna-based SI Group chemical company to give up the company's long-standing practice of paying fines for polluting, and instead invest $9 million into plant upgrades that will protect the air and water around its manufacturing plant on the Mohawk River in Rotterdam Junction.
Last week, the company's new CEO and president, Frank Bozich, said the goal for the plant is zero emissions, which will be a welcome change from the company's long history of creating pollution and paying the fines.
SI Group — which was founded as Schenectady Varnish Works in 1906 — has been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last decade for multiple violations of environmental laws. Even decades-old pollution practices continue to dog the company. Last year, it agreed to study cleanup of a landfill in Rensselaer County, where SI, General Electric and other companies dumped solvents and PCBs during the 1950s and '60s. Together, they’ll pay $3.6 million for cleanup.
Bozich, who became the company's CEO and president just 11 months ago, has been working recently with company and state officials to establish the zero-emissions standard for Rotterdam.
We hope Mr. Bozich is sincere in his efforts. With major new development proposed downriver from the plant in Schenectady and elsewhere along the Mohawk, it's vitally important for the entire region that the company rein in its bad habits. The purchase of pollution and safety equipment not only will save the company from paying needless fines, it will improve the region and enhance the company's worldwide brand.
This investment, and any others to follow, will be far more valuable to everyone than all the fines the company would ever have to pay.