The nation's largest waste hauler, Waste Management, Inc. (WMI), has
lost its contract to collect trash for the City of Chicago because a
local ordinance prohibits that city from doing business with companies
whose officials have been convicted of bribery or bid rigging.
Executives of a subsidiary of WMI, Ohio Waste Systems, pleaded guilty
to bid rigging in federal court in Toledo and were convicted in late
1987; as a result, the City of Chicago notified WMI in early 1989 that
Chicago's trash contracts would be given to other firms for three
years. At the end of the three years, WMI can try to regain Chicago's
trash hauling business again. The Chicago ordinance does not affect
contracts that WMI has with private companies, only those with the
State legislatures have even more power than local governments to pass
this kind of law. In Florida, the 1988 legislature considered a bill
that would have prevented a company from winning state, county or
municipal contracts with public agencies if company officials were
convicted of, or pleaded "no contest" to, crimes such as bid rigging,
bribery, fraud, price fixing, or racketeering. (Pleading no contest, or
nolo contendere, is a way of saying to the judge, "I am not admitting
guilt, but I am not going to fight the charges against me.") The
Florida bill died in committee; it was modeled on a similar law that
Florida has on its books already, preventing state or local contracts
with road builders convicted of crimes.
Ralph Nader has long urged Congress to pass a federal law changing the
way all corporations gain a license to do business in America. Although
many people don't know it, doing business is not a right, it is a
privilege. Today, corporations gain the privilege of doing business by
becoming "chartered" in one of the 50 states. Once chartered, a company
can do business in all other states as well.
In principal, a company that breaks the law could lose its charter and
be driven out of business entirely. Unfortunately, states almost never
revoke a corporate charter because states compete with each other to
gain corporate charters. Why? Corporations pay taxes to the state that
charters them. The states compete with each other to gain the most
corporate charters, and thus the most tax. For this reason, states
typically take a "hands off" approach to corporate control. (The state
with the least controls and the lowest taxes tends to get the most
corporations seeking a charter--which is why the large majority of
Americans firms are chartered in Delaware today.)
Ralph Nader favors FEDERAL chartering of corporations. Under such a
plan, there would be only one place to get a corporate charter--from
Uncle Sam--and if corporations didn't play by the rules, they could
lose the privilege of doing business in America. Congress has never
been very enthusiastic about the Nader plan.
But even without state or federal action, grass roots citizens can pass
local laws preventing crooks from getting lucrative local contracts.
Losing a contract hurts Waste Management--or any other large firm--far
beyond the dollar loss. It damages their credibility, and reduces their
momentum. Such laws are an easy way for us to curb the excesses of our
951 NEW FEDERAL REPORTS DESCRIBE HAZARDS AT EVERY SUPERFUND SITE
Anyone concerned about a Superfund site will want to know about a
series of reports completed recently by the Agency for Toxic Substances
and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The ATSDR has issued 951 "health
assessments"--one each for every site on the federal Superfund list.
These reports are free (see list of contact people below), and they
have many uses.
An ATSDR "health assessment" looks at the chemicals known to exist at
the site; it looks at the human populations near the site; and it looks
at possible pathways by which humans might come into contact with the
We have seen a few ATSDR health assessments and they look surprisingly
useful. At the very least, they will provide you with additional
ammunition to use in your local fight. The ones we have seen use strong
language to describe the hazards that people may encounter on a
Superfund site. You can use this strong language to prod the EPA (U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency), or your state agency, into action.
You can use the strong language to press for funds to move humans away
from the danger. Or you can use the strong language to get your local
newspapers and TV people interested in your site.
Even if you don't have a particular Superfund site you're worried
about, you can gather a few of these reports and use them to make the
general point that hazardous chemicals loose in the environment cause
problems, so hazardous chemicals must be brought under strict control.
ATSDR is part of the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in
Atlanta, Georgia. ATSDR has 10 offices around the country with two
people in each office; you should contact your nearest office to get
free copies of the Health Assessments that interest you. Here is the
list of ATSDR contact people, many of whom are housed in your regional
Region I: Marilyn DiSirio [phone: (617) 573-5719)] and Louise House
[phone: (617) 573-5726], EPA Regional Office, HSL-CAN 3, John F.
kennedy Building, Boston, MA 02203;
Region II: William Q. Nelson [phone: (212) 264-7662] or Denise Johnson
[same phone], EPA Region II, Rm. 737, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, NY
Region III: Charles J. Walters [phone: (215) 597-7291] or Lynn
Catherine Wilder [phone: (215) 597-2711], EPA Region III, Hazardous
Waste Management Division, 841 Chestnut Building, Philadelphia, PA
Region IV: Chuck Pietrosewicz [phone: (404) 347-3931] or S. Cody
Jackson [same phone], EPA Region IV, Waste Management Division, 345
Courtland St., NE, Atlanta, GA 30365.
Region V: Louise Fabinski [phone: (312) 353-8228] or Denise Jordan-
Izaguirre [phone: (312) 353-8231], EPA Region V, Emergency and Remedial
Branch 5HR, 230 South Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60604.
Region VI: Carl Hickam [phone: (214) 655-6725] or George Pettigrew
[phone: (214) 655-2246], EPA Region VI, Office of Health Response,
Allied Bank Tower at Fountain Plaza, 1445 Ross Ave., Dallas, TX 75202.
Region VII: Daniel Harper [phone: (913) 236-2856] or David Parker [same
phone], EPA Region VII, Waste Management Branch, 726 Minnesota Ave.,
Kansas City, KS 66101.
Region VIII: Michael McGeehin [phone: (303) 294-7147], or Tamara Kicera
[phone: (303) 294-7146], Region VIII, 8HWM-SR, Suite 500, 999 18th St.,
Denver, CO 80202.
Region IX: Donald Hawkins [phone: (415) 974-0563], or Gwen Eng [phone:
(415) 974-0564], EPA Region IX, Toxic Waste Management Division, 215
Fremont St., San Francisco, CA 94105.
Region X: Joel Mulder [phone: (206) 442-2711], or Greg Thomas [phone:
(206) 442-2113], EPA Region X (M/S HW113), 1200 6th Ave., Seattle, WA
Or order the report you want from: Steve Von Allmen, Health Assessment
Coordination Activity Office, ATSDR, Chamblee Complex, 1600 Clifton
Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30333; phone: (404) 488-4605.
Descriptor terms: atsdr; superfund; studies; statistics; health
assessments; health studies; cdc; wmi; il; chicago, il; bid rigging;
bribery; fraud; price fixing; ralph nader; federal chartering of
corporations; corporate charters;