A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 April 25, 1991


Arizona Governor agrees to pay ENSCO
$44 million to leave Arizona.
Massive hazardous waste
incineration/landfill project “mothballed.”

The state of Arizona in partnership with Environmental Systems Co. (ENSCO) proposed to build 3 hazardous waste incinerators and 7 hazardous waste landfills in the desert town of Mobile (population 100) for the disposal of mainly out-of-state hazardous wastes. This collaboration between the state and ENSCO led the state to invest millions of dollars to bring in roads and electricity to the site to allow ENSCO to begin construction. All this was done before the state had completed the public hearing process. On 5-7-90 (see Waste Not #s 101,105) a public hearing was held in Mobile. Without any provocation, the police from Maricopa County attacked and arrested many citizens who attended this public hearing. The police used stun guns on several people which led to massive public and press outrage. The state’s Department of Public Safety investigated the police attack and issued its report at the end of May 1990. The Department’s whitewash of this outrageous attack on citizens, and their report, was blasted by both the press and environmental groups. The use of stun-guns by the police on the participants at this hearing jolted state residents into a massive scrutiny of the agreements between ENSCO and the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. The then-Governor of Arizona, Rose Mofford, had previously stated she would not run for re-election, and the two gubernatorial candidates both came out against the ENSCO proposal. The November 1990 gubernatorial race was a virtual tie, and the run-off election was held in March 1991, at which time Fife Symington, a Republican, was elected. On May 3rd, Governor Symington, true to his election promises, issued the following press release, which is reprinted in its entirety.

Statement by Governor Fife Symington
Concerning ENSCO agreement May 3, 1991.

I am pleased to announce that my negotiations with Environmental Systems Co. have produced a conceptual agreement regarding the Mobile hazardous waste facility. This long environmental nightmare is over. Attorney General Grant Woods and both his capable staff and mine have worked in partnership to reach this successful conclusion.

As of this moment, ENSCO has agreed to completely shut down the facility. Arizona is “mothballing” the Mobile facility. We have suspended DEQ permitting. We have halted expenditures associated with the facility, except those needed for basic maintenance purposes. As of this afternoon, the Department of Public Safety has assumed responsibility for the security of the facility.

By the immediate shut-down of the ENSCO facility, we are terminating the financial hemorrhaging of expenses that have been accruing against the state. In addition to the cost of construction to date, there is an ongoing build-up of costs -- approximately $1.5 million per month -- which is the result of corporate overhead, engineering, labor and maintenance at the Mobile facility.

In return for shutting down the facility, we have agreed to reimburse ENSCO $37 million to purchase the assets at the facility and $7 million in settlement and re-deployment costs. So, the total cost to the state is $44 million. ENSCO has agreed to waive all claims against the state under the contract in exchange for fair compensation.

The reimbursement to ENSCO will be financed through the lease purchase of a debt-free state-owned building. Incidentally, numerous state buildings have been financed through “lease purchase,” including the Supreme Court, the Department of Revenue, parking facilities, the Historical Museum and the School for the Deaf and the Blind. The cash we receive from re-financing the building will be used to pay off ENSCO, who then will relinquish to the State of Arizona the title to the Mobile facility.

The buy-out of the ENSCO project will be conducted on the most favorable financial terms possible. There will be no financial impact on the 1992 general fund budget. Long-term, low-cost financing, which allows the state to amortize the cost over 20 years, will be utilized.

Any financing mechanism is, of course, subject to Legislative approval. I am hopeful the Legislature will support my efforts to close down the ENSCO facility.

Let me remind you that ENSCO’s contracts gave them the right to legally incinerate and import hazardous waste against the will of the public. When I entered these negotiations, my goal was to take back this right from ENSCO. My goal was to take control of our own destiny. My goal was to prevent Arizona from becoming the dumping ground of the Southwest. This agreement achieves these crucial environmental goals.

It is important to note that many legal authorities believe that because of the interstate commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution, states cannot ban the importation of hazardous waste. Federal courts have ruled that the only way to ban importation is to become a “market participant” in a facility. Once the ENSCO title is turned over to the State of Arizona, we become a market participant. As owners of the facility, we will be in the driver’s seat to determine its future uses, if any.

Through endless hours of negotiations, it became quite clear that the treatment of hazardous waste in Arizona still is surrounded by crucial unanswered questions. We would be remiss to think Arizona can rely on other states to accept our hazardous waste forever. As I said many times throughout my campaign, I personally am opposed to incineration. But I believe we must examine the incineration issue very carefully, rather than simply dismiss the issue.

In addition to the federal court rulings, the issue of incineration is complicated by a federal law, the “Federal Land Ban Rule.” This law identifies certain waste streams that must be incinerated.

In case we cannot sufficiently curtail our hazardous waste production in the future, and because of this federal law, we must resolve the issue of incineration once and for all. Scientific data on both sides of the argument now exists. We must make a decision on incineration based on fact, rather than emotion.

A rational dialogue on the issue is vital. Therefore, I soon will appoint a scientific panel that will listen to the evidence and determine whether incineration is the safest method of disposing of some forms of hazardous waste. Any decision regarding incineration based on the findings of the scientific panel must be made in tandem with the Legislature. Obviously, if incineration becomes a part of this state’s public policy in the future, the Legislature would have to appropriate a substantial sum of money to make the Mobile facility operational as an incinerator.

Because of today’s actions, major portions of the legislative hazardous waste bill are unnecessary. But there still are valuable features of House Bill 2121 that I support. These provisions include regulation of the storage, treatment and disposal of “special waste.” This is the waste that falls between the categories of currently regulated hazardous waste and solid waste, and included such substances as asbestos. The safety of Arizona’s people and environment must be protected from this unregulated disposal.

In addition, I support the establishment of waste-reduction and pollution-prevention programs. I am in favor of placing a fee on regulated waste shipped from any generator in Arizona, which will discourage illegal dumping and encourage waste reduction. And, I support an annual license fee for special waste transporters and a permit fee on the vehicles used to transport this waste.

I look forward to working with the chairman of the Senate and House Environment committees, Senator Karan English and Representative Bill Mundell, on these critical environmental issues.

The State of Arizona has struggled with this emotionally charged and extremely complex issue since the original contract with ENSCO was executed. I am pleased that in less than two months, we have brought to an end this environmental fiasco.

WASTE NOT # 148 A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US45; Overseas $65. Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.