A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 June 1993
Rutlands $36 million VICON incinerator operated for only 8 months before it was shut down when VICON went bankrupt in August 1988. In 1992, the incinerator was auctioned to the highest bidder for $3 million. For the last five years concerned citizens in Rutland and the Vermont Public Interest Group waged an intense battle against restarting the incinerator. They won!
August 1988: Vicon went bankrupt, after 8 months of operating the incinerator, due to their inability to secure lucrative electric rates, community resistance to dispose of ash in Vermont, other cost overruns and poor management of the plant. (See also Waste Not #s 5,16,19.)
December 12, 1989: Rutland citizens rejected (by a vote of 5,014 to 2,870) a $19.5 million bond issue for the Rutland County Solid Waste District to buy the incinerator. (Incinerator negotiated cost was $12.5 million.)
1990: The applicants for the incinerator permit were VERMONT INTEGRATED WASTE SOLUTIONS (VIWS) and the Meridian Group Inc. The Meridian Group was formed by local businessmen: the Casella brothers*, Vermonts largest waste haulers; John Russell, a Rutland developer; Jim Bohlig, and Mr. Mahoney. The Meridian Group formed VIWS with Denver-based composting company Recomp Inc. with each holding a 50% interest in the incinerator. Recomps parent company, Bonneville Pacific Corp., went bankrupt in 1991.
Incinerator Bonds: As the financial backer of the project the INDUSTRIAL BANK OF JAPAN (IBJ) bonded at least $25 million of Vicons estimated $36 million incinerator only to auction it off for $3 million to the highest bidder, VIWS, in 1992. The IBJ then wrote off the venture as a bad debt. Nixon, Hargrave, Devans & Doyle were the bond council for the Rutland County Solid Waste District and the attorneys who negotiated the contract for Vicon. The Vermont Industrial Development Authority bonded $16.5 million in bonds for the incinerator.
Proposed ash landfill: Contracts with the C.I.D. Landfill in Model City, NY, and the Norridgewalk Landfill in Maine.
Excessive background dioxin air levels in the Rutland area was the main reason the incinerator permit was denied on March 23, 1993. A 1991 report by the U.S. EPA presented results from an ambient air monitoring program conducted in the Rutland Area from November 1987 through February 1989. EPAs results showed that the air in the Rutland City area contained levels of 0.109 ug/m3 of chlorodibenzodioxins, which is five times higher than Vermonts standards for dioxin (0.02ug/m3). The incinerator, which operated in Rutland for 8 months out of the 2 year monitoring program, was exonerated in the EPA study as being a major contributor of dioxin in the Rutland area. But the study established the fact that Rutland suffers from excessive (according to Vermont standards) dioxin-contaminated air. Try as all the proponents could to overcome the results from EPAs two years of dioxin monitoring, the facts remained. The bottom line was that because of Vermonts stringent air regulations (see below) the state was compelled to deny the incinerator a permit to operate. The title of the U.S. EPA report, issued in March 1991: Feasibility of Environmental Monitoring and Exposure Assessment for a Municipal Waste Combustor: Rutland, Vermont Pilot Study, (EPA/600/8-91/007).
**The state standard for dioxin allows for a cancer risk of one in one million. Rutland Daily Herald, 3-27-93.
**A state toxicologist has said the dioxin levels believed to be present in Rutland air would mean that there are five additional cases of cancer for every l million persons exposed to the air for 70 years. Rutland Daily Herald, editorial, Dec 15, 1992.
**Just how the dioxin interpretation of .02 picograms per cubic meter level in Rutland air compares to dioxin levels out of state varies. State officials said dioxin levels found in a study of air in Windsor, Conn., were between .01 and .7 picograms per cubic meter, while a study in Bloomington, Ind., found dioxin levels of 1 to 4 picograms per cubic meter, state officials said. But according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Rutland may not be doing as well as it could. A study showed urban areas in West Germany and Sweden with dioxin levels at .001 to .08 picograms per cubic meter. Rutland Daily Herald, July 25, 1991, Lack of Data Hampers Air Quality Comparisons, pages 15,19.
**In 1991 the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources issued VIWS a permit with special conditions designed to reduce overall dioxin emissions in Rutland, but a Vermont judge ruled in a related case that such permits were illegal...The prospects for VIWS to get an air permit appear to depend on how much dioxin comes from other industries in the Rutland area. A VIWS official said the plant would contribute 64% of the states allowable levels of dioxin; a key state regulator put the figure at between 80 and 90 percent. [VT Environmental Conservation Commissioner Elizabeth] McLain and Richard Valentinetti, state director of air pollution control, said the agencys amended regulations would take into account other sources of dioxin in the Rutland area, mostly oil-fired boilers. If those sources of dioxin plus that of the incinerator exceeded the state health standard, they said, then there would be no air permit for VIWS...As the regulation changes were first written, it appeared that the agency would consider only the incinerators dioxin emissions in determining eligibility for a permit. But McLain and Valentinetti said the amended regulations, expected to become final early next year, would take into account other fuel-burning sources as well... Rutland Daily Herald, Nov. 30, 1992, front page, New Air Rules: Will Trash Be Burned?
** In November 1985, Dr. Barry Commoner concluded the Rutland plant could cause between 12 and 28 cancers per million people under the best conditions; under the worst conditions, the number of additional cancers is estimated at between 580 and 1,300 per million...[Commoner] said the proposed site for [the incinerator] in Rutland posed special problems because of its location in a valley with air inversions...Dr. Kay H. Jones [of Roy F. Weston] offered a radically different cancer risk assessment for the Rutland plant. He predicted 0.8 additional cancers per million people from emissions... Rutland Herald, Nov. 15, 1985, Cancer Threat Cited for Rutland Plant, front page.
INCINERATOR PERMIT DENIED ON MARCH 23, 1993. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources first denied the incinerator permit in July 1992. In rejecting the permit, the agency argued that the plant failed to meet state standards for emissions of the toxic pollutant dioxin. In response, VIWS pursued appeals with two state boards. VIWS also proposed opening the plant in two phases: first as a regional transfer station, and later, when permits were obtained, as a trash burner. These events took place while environmentalists and industry lobbyists waged a fierce struggle to change the states air pollution rules. Environmentalists claimed the proposed rule changes were designed to get the incinerator started again...In January, VIWS asked the state to reexamine air quality data collected [by the EPA] in Rutland in the late 1980s. VIWS officials argued that a different calculation and interpretation of the data showed that the plants emissions did not exceed the state requirements. But state officials say recalculations of the data still show that the plants dioxin emissions still exceed state standards... Rutland Daily Herald, March 23, 1993, State Ready to Refuse VIWS Permit, Front Page. On March 23 State officials announced the rejection of a crucial permit for the Rutland incinerator Tuesday...Charles Clarke, secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, told incinerator owners that their plants emissions would violate state air pollution standards. From what we could determine...they exceeded what we set up as hazard levels, Clarke said. So they could not be permitted...the agency argued that the plant failed to meet state standards for emission of toxic substances, including dioxin... Rutland Herald, 3-24-93.
SOME BACKGROUND ON THE INCINERATOR FIGHT: The residents of Rutland had to fight like tigers to stop the incinerator from being permitted. Rutlands mayor (Jeffrey Wennberg), Chamber of Commerce, Board of Health(!), and even 20 Rutland doctors(!), were proponents of the incinerator. In 1991 the State Agency for Natural Resources issued a draft permit to VIWS by illegally suspending its own regulations, which meant that the groups had to work even harder. Statewide, the activist involvement of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) was critical. According to Joan Mulhern of VPIRG: Without the continual, creative and energetic opposition to the incinerator from local citizens, this plant would have been on-line years ago...Despite the strong support for Vicon and VIWS exhibited by most (not all) city elected officials and many state officials as well [former VT Governor Madeline Kunin was for the incinerator], the citizens of Rutland County never gave in or gave up. The Chairman of the Vermont House Natural Resources Committee, Curt McCormack, from Rutland, was the most active elected official in Vermont against the incinerator. Two other groups heavily involved throughout this fight were the Conservation Law Foundation (Montpelier) and the Vermont Law Schools Environmental Law Center. This was a hard, long, pitched fight. The combination of active local citizens combined with the activist VPIRG and law groups proved to be the winning combination. For more information contact Joan Mulhern at VPIRG at 802-223-5221.
* VERMONTS LARGEST TRASH HAULER WERE PARTNERS IN THE INCINERATOR: Brothers John and Doug Casella, owners of Casella Waste Management, are partners in the Meridian Group and Vermont Integrated Waste Solutions (VIWS), the companies which applied for the incinerator permit. In 1988, New York Attorney General Robert Abrams sued the Casellas for operating an illegal dump in Whitehall [New York] and consistently ignoring state requests to clean it up. The history of the dump is so sordid, says Neil Kelleher, a New York State Assemblyman, in a recent interview. Of John Casella, Kelleher says: This is not the type of person you want to have dealing with this kind of environmental responsibility. Vermont Sunday Magazine, August 23, 1992, pg 4-12. **The Casella brothers have formed a partnership with a Pennsylvania company to buy the Consumat Sanco landfill in Bethlehem, N.H...Located on 126 acres of property, Consumat Sanco is a double-lined landfill that takes trash from municipalities as far away as Maine and as close as Sherburne. National Waste Industries of Pittsburgh, Pa., is providing capital for the venture, Casella said. To purchase the landfill, the company has joined Casella to form the partnership New England Waste Services Inc. Officers in this new company include the Casellas and James Bohlig of Shrewsbury...Started in 1975 as a one-truck operation, the Casellas company is now the largest waste management business in the state...Most recently, a civil suit filed in February by a competitor accuses Casella Waste Management of acting in concert with local Rutland officials to stifle competition in the local trash industry... Rutland Herald, April 10, 1993, Casellas to Buy Landfill in New Hampshire, Front page.