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#287 - The Breakdown Of Morality, 26-May-1992

While he was in California recently, playing golf and eating caviar,
Vice-President Dan Quayle announced that the cause of the recent riot
in Los Angeles was a breakdown in morality among residents of south-
central L.A.

Mr. Quayle did not mention it, but it is apparent that an even more
pronounced breakdown in morality occurred among the nation's leaders
during the previous 15 years as they encouraged white-collar criminals
to raid the public treasury and thumb their noses at government
regulations.

A Case in Point: Crooks in High Places

The largest hazardous waste incinerator in the world--called WTI--is
currently being built in East Liverpool, Ohio. Local citizens have been
fighting the facility for 12 years. They say it is located in a place
that is simply not safe or even sensible. The huge furnace is being
built right on the edge of the Ohio River, which provides drinking
water to many thousands of people. The site is in the 100-year flood
plain and is underlain by two high-quality aquifers (sources of potable
water). The site has previously been contaminated with 200,000 gallons
of toxic chemicals which are presently being cleaned up as construction
of the huge new pollution-source proceeds. The incinerator sits in a
valley where thermal inversion conditions occur frequently; a thermal
inversion is a warm layer of air that hangs over a cooler layer, thus
putting a "lid" on the sky, allowing a buildup of pollutants which
would otherwise drift away. The 150-foot WTI smoke stack sits below a
bluff, on top of which lie an elementary school and a business college
about 1100 feet from the stack as the crow flies. Homes lie 400 feet
from the stack.

WTI is licensed to burn 176,000 tons of hazardous waste each year.
Legally it can emit 9400 pounds of lead, 2560 pounds of mercury,
199,600 pounds of sulfur dioxide, and 157,400 pounds of fine particles
each year. Because it is licensed to burn pesticides, solvents, and
leftover chemical weapons (Agent orange from Vietnam), it is a
certainty that WTI will create and emit substantial quantities of
dioxins and furans.

WTI sits on land owned by a government unit called the Columbiana
County Port Authority, which was created by the Ohio legislature in
1977. In 1979 the Port Authority leased land to WTI BEFORE THE PORT
AUTHORITY EVEN OWNED ANY LAND. The Ohio Department of Transportation
then bought land for the Port Authority using $4 million of Ohio
taxpayers' funds explicitly earmarked "to enhance the use of Ohio's
rivers." WTI will discharge liquid wastes into the river but will not
use the river in any other way; it is explicitly forbidden from
transporting wastes on the river. How WTI will "enhance Ohio's rivers"
is known only to highly-placed political tricksters. This is merely one
among many irregularities Ohio governor George Voinevitch and his
cronies have been willing to overlook on behalf of WTI.[1]

Federal officials are likewise playing fast and loose on WTI's behalf.
When WTI sought a permit from U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection
Agency), the application for the permit was signed only by WTI and not
by the land owner, the Port Authority. This behavior was just plain
illegal.

The nation's hazardous waste law is called RCRA [Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act] and the RCRA regulations published in the Federal
Register May 19, 1980 explicity say that a "facility" includes "all
contiguous land." Thus the "owner" of a "facility" explicitly includes
the owner of the land.[2]

The preamble to the May 19, 1980 regulations explicitly spelled out WHY
owners were required to sign a RCRA permit application:

SOME FACILITY OWNERS HAVE HISTORICALLY BEEN ABSENTEES, KNOWING AND
PERHAPS CARING LITTLE ABOUT THE OPERATION OF THE FACILITY ON THEIR
PROPERTY. THE AGENCY BELIEVES THAT CONGRESS INTENDED THAT THIS SHOULD
CHANGE AND THAT THEY SHOULD KNOW AND UNDERSTAND THAT THEY ARE ASSUMING
JOINT RESPONSIBILITY FOR COMPLIANCE WITH THESE REGULATIONS WHEN THEY
LEASE THEIR LAND TO A HAZARDOUS WASTE FACILITY. THEREFORE, TO ENSURE
THEIR KNOWLEDGE, THE AGENCY WILL REQUIRE OWNERS TO CO-SIGN THE PERMIT
APPLICATION AND ANY FINAL PERMIT FOR THE FACILITY

Despite these regulations, in 1983 EPA Region 5 in Chicago accepted a
RCRA-permit application signed by WTI alone without the Columbiana
County Port Authority and subsequently issued a RCRA permit to WTI
alone, a clear violation of EPA's own regulations.

Late last year, with local activists from three states nipping at its
heels, Region 5 EPA tried to cover its tracks. EPA regional
administrator Valdus Adamkus wrote to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of
West Virginia on December 2, 1991:

"It is true that the property upon which the facility sits is owned by
the Columbiana County Port Authority," Adamkus wrote. "It is also true
that the Agency was aware of that fact at the time the permit was
issued, and that the permit was issued solely to WTI. In 1983 the
Agency did not make the distinction between property owners and
facility owners." Mr. Adamkus's letter to Sen. Rockefeller continues:
"Since 1983, the Agency has changed its policy. It now issues permits
to property owners and facility operators as co-permittees."

It is evident that there was no such policy before 1983 and no change
of policy in 1983. When challenged to produce the earlier policy, Mr.
Adamkus's staff could not.[3]

Having been caught in a violation of law, which Mr. Adamkus tried to
cover up with a lie, EPA's next step was to break the law again by
adding the Columbiana County Port Authority to the WTI RCRA permit even
though the Port Authority has never applied to EPA to be put on the
permit. EPA has no authority to issue a hazardous waste permit to
someone who does not apply for one.[4] In fact, the Port Authority has
appealed EPA's decision, demanding that its name be removed from the
WTI permit. It seems the Port Authority (a public body) does not want
its name on a RCRA permit since it has no legal mandate to become a
hazardous waste permit-holder.

A most unusual situation. Or is it? The San Francisco office of EPA
(Region 9) faced a similar situation recently. Here EPA and the State
of California had issued a permit to a cement kiln to burn hazardous
waste. When the permit was up for renewal, local environmentalists
pointed out that the landowner had never signed the permit application
and refused to do so. EPA Region 9 refused to allow the RCRA permit to
be renewed on grounds that the law requires the landowner to co-sign
the permit application.[5] In making its decision, Region 9 explicitly
stated that EPA does not have the authority to waive its own rules,
which is precisely what Region 5 is doing in the WTI case. According to
the logic of this precedent, Region 5 should revoke WTI's permit
because the land owner (the Port Authority) refuses to apply to become
a party to the permit.

It seems clear that, in the case of WTI, EPA Region 5 broke the law,
lied about it, then broke the law again trying to cover its tracks.

What could cause high ranking career civil servants and government
attorneys to risk their careers, their pensions and perhaps their
freedom for the benefit of WTI? We can only speculate, but we believe
the answer lies in knowing the background of WTI.

WTI was initially a consortium of investors put together by Jackson
Stephens who operates Stephens, Inc., in Little Rock, Arkansas, one of
the largest investment banks outside of Wall Street, according to the
WALL STREET JOURNAL. Mr. Stephens's personal fortunate is estimated to
be $1.7 billion.[6] He was a classmate of Jimmy Carter at the Naval
Academy and was a heavy supporter of Carter in 1976 and 1980. Stephens
profited tremendously by Carter's changes in natural gas policy.
Because of Stephens, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International
(known in the banking trade as the Bank of Crooks and Criminals) got a
foothold in the American banking industry. The WALL STREET JOURNAL says
it was Stephens who "suggested to BCCI in the late 1970s that it try to
take over what is now Washington, DC's, biggest bank company, First
American Bankshares, Inc."

In the 1980s, Stephens became a benefactor of the Republican party and
a member of George Bush's financial committee. Stephens's wife, Mary
Anne, served as Arkansas co-chair of the Bush for President Committee.
Stephens himself donated $100,000 to Team 100, a GOP group that
collected funds for the campaign. In May, 1991, Stephens, Inc. donated
another $100,000 to the Bush dinner committee, according to the WALL
STREET JOURNAL (12/6/91). Last year Vice-President Quayle flew to
Augusta, Georgia on a military jet at a cost to the taxpayers of
$27,000. His purpose: a game of golf with Jackson Stephens.[7]

When Republican Governor George Voinevitch and EPA Region 5
administrator Val Adamkus, a Bush appointee, evade the rules to let WTI
get away with murder, they signal a breakdown in morality that only the
likes of Mr. Quayle could fail to notice.

--Peter Montague

=====

[1] These irregularities are spelled out in an 11-page memorandum April
30, 1992, by Ashley Schannauer, an attorney with the City of
Pittsburgh, Penna., Law Department.

[2] See FEDERAL REGISTER, May 19, 1980; the regulations begin on pg.
33036; the definition appears on pg. 33074.

[3] Personal communication with Cleveland PLAIN DEALER reporter T.C.
Brown May 14, 1992.

[4] EPA Region 5 claims that there are two precedents for issuing a
RCRA permit to someone who has never applied for one: a case involving
Ford Motor Co., and one involving Olin Corp. However, in these cases,
both Ford and Olin signed the permit application, then tried to keep
their names off the permit. EPA wouldn't let them do it. Columbiana
County Port Authority refuses to sign the permit application, so the
Ford and Olin cases aren't the same at all. See IN THE MATTER OF: FORD
MOTOR COMPANY and IN THE MATTER OF: MICHIGAN DISPOSAL, INC. AND FORD
MOTOR COMPANY, RCRA APPEAL NO. 90-9 AND 90-9A, October 9, 1991 and IN
THE MATTER OF: OLIN CORPORATION, BADGER ARMY AMMUNITION PLANT, RCRA
APPEAL NO. 88-18.

[5] John Chandler, "Waste Plant Is Threatened With Closure," LOS
ANGELES TIMES, March 20, 1992, p.B3.

[6] Christopher Knowlton, "Of Bibles, Bonds and Billions," FORTUNE Feb.
12, 1990, pg. 112.

[7] Jim Dwyer, "Quayle and His Golf Outings: Putting One Over on the
Taxpayers," ATLANTA CONSTITUTION April 15, 1992. Thanks to Jan Caves of
Fortson, Georgia, for this.

Descriptor terms: dan quayle; wti; east liverpool, oh; incineration;
columbiana county port authority, oh; rcra; jackson stephens;