A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 May 9, 1991

Democracy Threatened

“The level of pollution runs parallel with the level of corruption.”
by Paul Connett

Thoughts from the road. If I needed reminding that incinerators pose as big a threat to democracy as they do to our environment, it came with a vengeance on my latest road trip, April 26 to May 1st, which took me to Fort Myers, FL; Sunland Park, NM; and Pioche, NV.


Ogden Martin aggressively selling another trash incinerator. Citizens in Lee County thought they had beaten off a massive 1,800 tpd OGDEN MARTIN trash incinerator, when last November, they voted into office a new County Commissioner, (Vicki Lopez-Wolfe) who campaigned against the incinerator project. After the election there was a 3-2 majority against the project...or so the citizens thought! Then Ogden Martin flexed their muscles - they ran full-page ads, they wined and dined, they threatened lawsuits against the county, and with the help of the Commissioners and $50,000 of taxpayers’ money they staged a two day symposium of “independent” experts* in April, who were shielded from direct questioning from the public. The Commissioners would not consider the participation of either Dr. Commoner or myself, because we were avowedly “against incineration” and they wanted “independent” experts. But their “independent” experts included several people working for consulting companies, well known for their support of incineration, including Dr. Paul Chrostowski, of Clements & Assoc., who is so pro-incinerator he has represented Wheelabrator in public debate and even appears on a videotape that Wheelabrator uses to promote its incinerator projects. Also on their panel was Dr. Vernon Houk, Assistant Surgeon General, of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the man accused by a recent congressional committee of botching the CDC Agent Orange study (see Waste Not # 61). Dr. Houk came to tell the County Commissioners they had nothing to fear from either dioxin or mercury emissions. I urged the citizens to challenge Ogden Martin to a debate: Ogden Martin refused. Then the citizens asked the Commissioners to sponsor a meeting where I would be given the chance to give the side they had not heard at their symposium: the Commissioners refused. So the citizens invited me down anyway, at their own expense. The county Commissioners voted 4-1 on May 1st to proceed with a downsized 1,200 tpd incinerator. The county only produces about 1,100 tpd - and that’s before any recycling or composting. Unless recall motions or other devices are found to return Lee County to democracy, we could see yet another trash incinerator burning tax payers money and spewing mercury into the Everglades, into the fish there, into the endangered panther (only 30-50 left), and into the Seminole Indians, who have a high fish content in their diet. Which prompts me to ask, who owns the Everglades anyway? Is it Ogden Martin? Is is Lee County? Is it Florida? Is it the U.S.? - or is this precious, unique ecosystem owned by planet Earth? When will we ever learn? (*The other independent experts that were part of the April 11-12 symposium were: J. Winston Porter of the consulting firm Porter & Assoc. (Sterling, VA), formerly EPA’s National Program Manager for Superfund and RRCA program; N.C. Vasuki, chief exec. officer of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority; P. Lynn Scarlett of the Reason Foundation, Santa Monica, CA. According to Scarlett’s vita given to residents, “The White House has requested and utilized Dr. Scarlett’s work on recycling and privatization.”; Joe Word, solid waste director for Austin, TX; Dr. Iraj Zandi, professor at the Wharton School of Business, U. of PA, Phila; Dr. David Rush, president of Public Resources Advisory Group, NYC; and Peter Grogan, consultant for R.W. Beck & Assoc., Seattle,WA.) For more information contact Bobbi Heinrich at 813-728-3049 or Ken Case at 813-997-4737.

SUNLAND PARK, NEW MEXICO: Community fighting against operating regional medical waste incinerator. I went to Sunland Park, New Mexico, to help a community of Mexican Americans in their battle to rid themselves of a landfill and regional medical waste incinerator, operating without air pollution control equipment less than a thousand feet from their elementary school. The environmental situation was bad enough - with people complaining of rashes, respiratory problems and irritation of the eyes - but even worse was the fact that people who should have been helping these citizens, were actually working for the other side! Their former mayor, Mr. David Martinez, who signed the agreement which brought in the landfill in 1987, is now their state representative AND AN OFFICIAL LOBBYIST FOR THE LANDFILL/INCINERATOR OPERATOR (Nu-Mex Landfill, Inc.). Their state senator - Mr. Fernando Macias, is ALSO THE LAWYER FOR THE COMPANY. Currently, Mr. Macias is using his legal and political skills to keep the landfill/incinerator operating. These skills included getting a postponement on the public hearing I had come to give testimony at! Instead, a few days before the hearing was due to take place on April 29th it was changed to a pre-hearing meeting between interveners and lawyers. Even so, about 700 residents showed up at the “non-hearing”. Can you imagine the scene of this young lawyer, voted into office by the residents of Sunland Park, pleading the case of his client, the polluter, in front of the people he is supposed to represent. I was so incensed that this man could stab his own people in the back, that when I finally got my chance to speak (all interveners were allowed to make a suggestion about the timing of the next meeting!!) I used the opportunity to throw a mock $100 bill at the feet of Senator Macias. Not, perhaps, the correct role for an out-of-state waste expert, but how much abuse and injustice can you witness before you burst? The public hearing has been re-scheduled for August 15. While regulators fiddle, democracy burns. We will keep you posted.

PIOCHE, LINCOLN COUNTY, NEVADA: Proposed hazardous waste incinerator. Pioche, the county seat, is a former silver mining town, but is now a largely agricultural (cattle and alfalfa). There are 5 state parks in Lincoln County. 100 miles south of Pioche is the newest U.S. national park called Great Basin National Park. Lincoln County is in a migratory pathway for birds from Mexico to Canada. Pioche has an enormous potential for tourism. But not if Mr. Gentile gets his way. He wants to make the town a regional center for hazardous waste disposal. Mr. Gentile runs a California-based company called Disposal Control Services, Inc. His first proposal, in November 1987, to build a 100,000 ton-per-year haz.waste incinerator for mainly out of state waste, was rejected by the State in 1989. He then threatened the State of Nevada in 1990 with a lawsuit. The State settled, with the condition he could only burn 15,000 tons of in-state waste. (The Gov. of Nevada has vetoed disposal of out-of-state haz.waste.) Gentile’s plan was to convert an existing manganese-silver rotary kiln built in 1950 into a “sham recycling” operation, getting around RCRA regulations by burning hazardous waste as a “fuel”. On March 5th the County Commissioners voted against the project. However, when Mr. Gentile threatened the Commissioners with a lawsuit, they changed their vote at their next meeting on March 20. There was a time when folks in the waste industry broke knee caps to get their way. Now they use full-page ads and threaten lawsuits. While the advertisements are usually laughable, the threat to democracy is not. The following are excerpts from a full-page ad by Disposal Control Services in the Lincoln County Record, on April 11: “Who are the Environmental organizations violently opposing incineration, and why?” “Lincoln County residents deserve to have some information on the purposes and backgrounds of organizations like Greenpeace that foster and follow a world-wide agenda of attacking chemical technology of all sorts and opposing many forms of democratic economic institutions. (Then followed excerpts from an extraordinary speech from Robert J. Bidinotto, a staff writer with the Reader’s Digest, which would make the average conspiracy theorist blush!) “In a short time, many Lincoln County residents will figure out for themselves that they have been duped and sucked into a counter-cultural plot. They have been fraudulently frightened, and their children and aging parents and other relatives have been singled out for particular savagery. Knowledge of the misrepresentations and philosophical history should suffice to awaken people to the truth. The need for recrimination or revenge will be overcome by a calm sense, that: Ah!...at last I’m back to making sense like I always did. Thanks Mom and Dad. Thanks teachers and clergy. Thanks Jefferson and Adams! The world isn’t upside down. Government knew what it was doing when it required that the residues of hazardous and toxic chemicals should be destroyed. And Disposal Service, Inc., for its part, is providing society the safest possible way to do that known to man. Phew! Glad that’s over.” For more info contact Elizabeth Gemmill at 702-962-5844.

WASTE NOT # 150 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.