THU AM News: Labor secretary says addressing opioid crisis would improve workforce; Kaul announces $1.6 billion agreement with opioid manufacturer

— U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia says addressing the opioid crisis could also improve labor shortages in Wisconsin.

Scalia encouraged the state’s business leaders and employers to hire workers coming out of the criminal justice system. He spoke yesterday at the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce’s annual Business Day in Madison event.

“A job can be a crucial step towards regaining their lives and flourishing again,” Scalia said.

Labor shortages are the largest concern to business owners, according to a survey done by the WMC.

The Department of Labor has awarded about $160 million since 2018 to programs addressing the opioid crisis and nearly $90 million last year to organizations helping youth and adults involved in the justice system get back into the workforce, according to Scalia.

He recommended in his keynote address that businesses pursue grants for addressing the opioid crisis such as the Federal Bonding Program that insures companies that want to hire an employee but worry about the risk of the employee relapsing.

“A minuscule number of participating employers have ever actually had to make the claims they got the insurance against,” he said.

He added: “By hiring workers who have conquered their substance use problems or paid their debt to the criminal justice system, you can address critical labor needs and you can experience the profound satisfaction that comes with helping an individual — men, women and their families — build a new life.”

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— AG Josh Kaul has announced a $1.6 billion agreement with the largest generic opioid manufacturer in the country and its subsidiaries.

The $1.6 billion that drugmaker Mallinckrodt agreed to pay will go to a trust to cover the cost of opioid addiction treatment and related efforts, according to Kaul’s office.

The suit is separate from two other legal actions Kaul has taken related to the opioid industry. Last year, DOJ joined a multistate investigation of distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. He also filed suit against two Purdue Pharma entities and Richard Sackler, former company chair and president.

“Getting accountability from pharmaceutical companies is an important part of our strategy for fighting the opioid epidemic,” Kaul said. “With this agreement, more resources will be available to help combat this crisis.”

A DOJ spokeswoman said the deal was reached with Mallinckrodt without a suit being filed. Therefore, the AG doesn’t believe it needs to be submitted to the Joint Finance Committee for approval.

The committee has to sign off for settlements the AG reaches in lawsuits under a law Republicans approved in the 2018 lame-duck session.

See the release:

— Multiple people were killed during a shooting at a Molson Coors facility in Milwaukee, according to city officials. 

The building where yesterday’s shooting occurred has office space as well as two breweries, and hundreds of employees work there. 

The company referenced an “active situation” in a tweet yesterday and said it was working closely with the city’s police department. 

“Our top priority is our employees and we’ll provide updates in conjunction with the police as we are able,” the tweet said. 

See more in Top Stories below. 

— Xcel Energy lowered its carbon emissions by 10 percent over 2019, reducing its output by 5.6 million tons. 

According to a release, this marks the largest carbon reduction in a single year for the company, which has pledged to reach 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050. 

“We’re making tremendous progress on our clean energy journey,” said Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. 

Xcel Energy has cut carbon emissions 44 percent since 2005, compared to 30 percent for the overall electric industry, federal figures show. 

The company got about 20 percent of its energy supply from wind last year and is steadily reducing its reliance on coal generation. Low natural gas prices and a “strong performance” from the company’s nuclear sources are playing a role in that transition, per the release. 

Natural gas produces less greenhouse gases than other fossil fuels, but burning it does emit carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and more. Fowke says the company is taking “ambitious steps” to reduce emissions like these including spending $1 billion on pipeline upgrades.  

Xcel has also pledged to keep methane emissions below 0.2 percent for its natural gas operations. 

The Minneapolis-based utility company has 3.6 million electricity customers and 2 million natural gas customers across eight states including Wisconsin. Both Michigan and Wisconsin are served by the subsidiary Northern States Power Company – Wisconsin, the company’s website shows. 

See the release: 

See the company’s service map: 

— The Natural Resources Board has approved a proposed rule change that would transfer regulatory authority of coal ash landfills to the DNR from the federal government.

Landfills storing the residuals of coal plants in Wisconsin are currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. But the plan would allow the state to petition the federal government to hand over coal ash landfill regulations to DNR.

DNR Program Manager Kate Strom Hiorns testified the rules change is meant to streamline the differences between state and federal regulatory requirements. Where the rules differ, companies are required to follow both sets of regulations.

Coal ash is a toxic byproduct of coal-fired power plants. According to the EPA, improperly stored coal ash could leak contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic into the air and waterways.

The 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act allowed states to enter an EPA permit program for the self-regulation of such landfills, so long as state rules were at least up to federal standards.

The scope statement passed by voice vote, which kicked off the process of drafting rules and scheduling a potential second public hearing. A DNR spokeswoman told the process could take about a year before completion.

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— Michael Best is combining with an entrepreneurial law firm RWR Legal, adding three new attorneys to the Milwaukee-based law firm’s office in Austin. 

“Austin has a thriving economy for venture capital and start-up companies, and it has been a core part of our firm’s strategy to expand our team of attorneys there,” said David Krutz, managing partner of Michael Best.  

According to a release, the new attorneys will bolster the Austin location’s expertise in health care, technology and consumer packaged goods. 

See the release: 

— The Madison Region Economic Partnership’s senior vice president of economic development, Michael Gay, is leaving the organization for a leadership position at Invest Puerto Rico. 

Gay joined MadREP in 2013 and was involved in many “projects critical to the region,” according to MadREP President Paul Jadin. Before that, he had worked for UW-Platteville and as business development coordinator for the city of Madison. 

See the release: 

— Madison-based Nimble Therapeutics announced recently that it will enter a multi-year collaboration with Genentech to accelerate the discovery and development of new medicines.

According to a release, the collaboration will leverage Nimble’s resources to enable faster discovery and optimization of promising drug compounds. 

“We are excited to collaborate with a world-class and well-respected organization such as Genentech to identify novel peptide therapeutics,” Nimble Therapeutics CEO Jigar Patel said in a statement. “This partnership combines the strengths of our two organizations to potentially bring new medicines to patients.”

Financial terms were not disclosed. Genentech is a subsidiary of Roche located in San Francisco.

See more at Madison Startups: 


# Several people killed in shooting at Molson Coors complex in Milwaukee

# U.S. Cellular deploys 5G in Racine

# Wisconsin’s second-largest solar farm planned in Kenosha County

# Tony Evers vetoes $250 million Republican tax cut legislation



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– Sen. Dale Kooyenga: Streamlining professional licensing in Wisconsin will expand opportunities


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Xcel Energy: Sets single-year record cutting carbon

MadREP: Senior Vice President Michael Gay accepts new position with Invest Puerto Rico