A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 July 1992


“...incineration of solid waste is the most costly method
of waste disposal with known and unknown escalating costs which would place substantial and unreasonable burdens on both state and municipal budgets to the point of seriously jeopardizing the public’s interest.”

From Rhode Island’s State Senate Act 92-S 2502, signed into law on July 14, 1992.

Part 1: RHODE ISLAND IS THE FIRST STATE IN THE U.S.A. TO ENACT A BAN AGAINST MSW INCINERATORS. At 2 a.m. on July 14, 1992, the Governor of Rhode Island signed into law the 1993-1994 state budget. Included in the new budget was the ban on the incineration of municipal solid wastes. The Rhode Island chapter of the national War on Waste (WOW) Campaign, together with representatives of the Rhode Island State Legislature, were able to achieve what no one in the money-empowered waste industry thought was possible. Before the ban was begrudgingly signed into law by R.I. Governor Bruce Sundlun, there were three MSW incinerators proposed for Rhode Island -see over. (There are no operating MSW incinerators in State). Between 1984-1987 there was only one group in the state of R.I. who battled against municipal waste incineration in Rhode Island. That group was CONCERN INC. (not affiliated with the national Concern group.) Concern Inc. fought long and hard against the proposed Quonset Point incinerator project, then a 1,500 tpd incinerator proposal developed by Blount. Within the last two years the contracts were bought out by Ogden Martin. Clean Water Action activated the WOW campaign less than 2 years ago in Rhode Island with 20 other state environmental groups. Their work was exemplary, and combined with informed and strong state legislators, the smallest state (population: 1 million) in the nation defeated one of the biggest corrupters of democracy: the waste industry.

** Industry’s attempt to sabotage the ban. The R.I. State Senate Bill 92-S 2502 that banned msw incineration was first introduced by State Senator Paul P. Pederzani III on February 13, 1992. The State Senate passed the bill on May 20th by 34-5 votes. After that the intensity of the lobbying efforts of the waste industry was bludgeoning. Ogden Martin were out in force with at least 6 lobbyists at the State House. Governor Bruce Sundlun’s people were lobbying hard against the ban. The Bond Counsel (Edwards & Angel) for the $160 million worth of bonds on the Quonset Point incinerator was lobbying. Blount was lobbying. (Blount sold the contracts to Ogden Martin, but the contracts were only significant if the incinerator was built.) The Governor, reneging on campaign promises made in 1986, 1988 & 1990 to incinerator opponents, said he would veto the bill. But the bill moved along a rather tortuous chain of committees, while the waste industry and their lobbyists tried everything under the sun to torpedo it. In June the bill was attached to the 1993-1994 budget. The Governor’s office and the State’s Solid waste officials at the 11th hour said that if a ban was passed it would cost the State tens of millions of dollars if the incinerator at Quonset Point was not built. These claims proved to be totally unsubstantiated, and legislators saw it for what it was: a scare tactic to intimidate them. The Governor’s office tried to sabotage the ban by trying to substitute the ban with a moratorium on incineration. First it was a 6-month moratorium, then 9-months, then 3-years. The Governor and House leadership tried to amend the ban bill but Senator Pederzani and his anti-incineration colleagues successfully blocked that bill. Ogden Martin’s attorney Gregory Benik released a legal opinion the day before the vote on the proposed moratorium threatening the state with a $100 million lawsuit if the state did not follow through with the contracts to build the incinerator -Ogden had two of the three incinerator proposals in the state. On the same day that Ogden Martin issued this threat, Governor

Sundlun agreed with Ogden Martin’s position, without any in-depth investigation of Ogden’s claims, and urged legislators to reverse their position on the ban and support the moratorium. But the Senate stood firm believing that Ogden Martin was too vulnerable to sue the State. (Senator Pederzani told Waste Not that Ogden Martin didn’t have much of a case because there were several contractual agreements that Ogden failed to meet, i.e., maintaining the performance bond on Quonset Point incinerator; the large $160 million bond was vendor and site specific -Blount was the vendor when the bonds were issued; when Blount sold the contracts to Ogden there was no competitive bidding, etc. Senator Pederzani made the point that for Ogden to threaten states or municipalities that have a change in philosophies or a change in solid waste strategies would be more harmful than good for them.) The lobbying was intense. The R.I. WOW campaign led the successful lobbying effort for the incinerator ban’s passage. Over 20 environmental groups in the State joined on to the WOW campaign including the National Education Assoc. of R.I. Rhode Island’s Attorney General James O’Neil surfaced in the last 6-months as a strong opponent of incineration. During intensive lobbying on the ban O’Neil wrote letters to State Legislators refuting the lies of the pro-incinerator State Waste Management Corp. (SWMC). The SWMC had lost their credibility with the State Legislature and the public. Finally SWMC’s lies caught up with them.

** Conflicts of interest: The Ogden Martin Quonset Point 750 tpd incinerator was to be located in North Kingstown. The town of North Kingstown was opposed to the incinerator and in 1990 they hired the law firm of McGovern, Noel, Falk, Pannone, Procaccini & O’Leary, of Providence, to fight the incinerator. In May 1992 Ogden Martin’s lobbyist Gregory Benik left his law firm to become a partner with McGovern, Noel and he took with him the Ogden Martin account. The law firm then withdrew as solicitors to North Kingston. Metcalf & Eddy (M&E) who own the incinerator company Research Cottrell were the environmental consultants (!) to North Kingston. Because M&E are involved in permitting incinerators and are proponents of incineration, they did not make certain arguments in the permitting hearings against the Quonset Point incinerator because such arguments could potentially be used against them at subsequent hearings in their incinerator efforts.

** Ogden Martin’s proposed 750 tpd incinerator for Quonset Point: Quonset Point is on Narragansett Bay in the town of North Kingston, population 25,000. The site was very close to housing with an infant and child day care center actually abutting the incinerator property line. In March 1985 the residents of North Kingstown voted 84% against the incinerator in a non-binding referendum. Blount who developed this proposal went through no competitive bidding. The site for the incinerator was a former naval base which has approx. 15 hazardous waste sites located on the site. The Navy left in 1973. The Rhode Island Port Authority bought the land and have tried to develop it as an industrial park. The air emissions permit and the solid waste licence to construct and operate the Quonset Point incinerator were granted in 1988. The SWMC had appealed the decision of the hearing officer saying the incinerator air emission limits were too stringent. SWMC petitioned the R.I. Dept. of Environmental Management three times, with each petition asking for further relaxation from emission limits. The first two petitions were granted but the 3rd petition was denied. SWMC’s great greed to relax emissions to satisfy Ogden Martin led to a 2-year delay in building the incinerator. This delay helped to forestall the project. The last of the hearings ended 1-week before the ban. North Kingstown hired Harlon Doliner of Boston as their lead environmental attorney to fight the incinerator proposal. At a public town hearing held in April 1992, Doliner, acting on behalf of the town council of North Kingstown, recommended to the town’s residents that they should withdraw from opposing the incinerator and negotiate for the best deal the town could get as a host community. The residents reacted with an outpouring of wrath so intense that the town council reversed itself and declared that it would continue the fight against the incinerator.

** Central Landfill and the proposed 750 tpd Ogden Martin incinerator in Johnston: Johnston hosts the state’s Central Landfill and is also the site for the proposed 750 tpd Ogden Martin incinerator and was the proposed ashfill site for all 3 incinerators. This landfill is less than 2 miles from the State’s major water supply (Scituate Reservoir) which supplies over 60% of the state’s water. In 1980 the SWMC bought the landfill site from Mr. Silvestri, who owned it for years. The State knew that the site was a hazardous waste site when it bought it and in 1981 the landfill was officially declared a superfund site. Environmentalists claim that there was no competitive bidding for Ogden Martin’s incinerator, but rather a vendor selection process. Requests for Qualifications and Requests for Proposals were sent out, screened, with criteria determined by the state’s SWMC. The short-list of vendors in 1986-87 included Blount, who up to this time had never built an incinerator while Signal Resco (now Wheelabrator) with the most incinerator experience was excluded. Ogden Martin was also shortlisted. In 1991 Waste Management Inc. wanted to buy the Central Landfill and Ogden’s Quonset Point Incinerator.

** Foster Wheeler’s proposed 750 tpd incinerator for Central Falls. Foster Wheeler was selected to build the Central Falls incinerator without competitive bidding by a group of Rhode Island trash haulers, represented by Alan J. Goldman, a long-time lobbyist and lawyer for the waste hauler industry. Goldman got the incinerator project included as a discrete, unnoticed amendment in the 1989 state budget that provided for a local referendum to be held in lieu of competitive bidding. The referendum was held approx. 3 weeks after the budget was passed in a community where hardly any discussion of the issue was held. The referendum won narrowly. Goldman’s sidekicks in this venture were Thomas McCaughey & Robert Cece -see Waste Not # 135. Central Falls is an economically depressed and largely minority community. Hispanics Against the Incinerator from Central Falls, as members of the R.I. War on Waste Campaign, actively lobbied for the incinerator ban.

** Message from 8-year incinerator veteran Lorrie MacGowan of North Kingstown: “Please drop a postcard to our Governor to thank him for taking care of our environment.” Send to: Governor Bruce Sundlun, 222 State House, Providence, RI 02903. Lorri’s message to other communities battling incinerators: “Don’t give up.” She credits Paul Pederzani, Paul Plunkett and Steve O’Connell of Concern for their outstanding 8-year effort to educate people on incineration issues and noted that Cindi Roper’s arrival in R.I. with Clean Water Action was the best thing that hit the state since Roger Williams (Williams founded Providence and got a charter for the Colony). Cindi, together with Concern, spearheaded the R.I. War on Waste Campaign.

** For more information contact: Cindi Roper, War on Waste Campaign, c/o Clean Water Action, 2 Charles Street, Providence, RI 02904. Tel: 401-331-6972.

WASTE NOT # 198. 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.