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Sea ee 4, 1 Horse .0 Inn v / Kitchenettes-Cable TV Pool o ak 0, to 40 vi ?* beside the Gulf of Mexico se, lor i d k w Unique European Charm 0 i & Atmosphere 0 Special Low Spring & Summer Rates ro, 1i Pets Welcome \(e t 1423 11th Street 4110 .611″ Port Aransas, TX 78373 ‘ call for Reservations ,.f .vorme.% A st 14%% -40, %leo 1r %mom. on Mustang Island ing was held to announce the siting about 210 people attended, but the city administration had carefully eliminated opposition by selectively mailing invitations. Changes in Austin also began to alter the regulatory climate and the siting permit process. On Feb. 6, 1991, newly-elected Gov. Ann Richards announced a statewide moratorium on hazardous waste. House Bill 1099 prohibited the location of hazardous waste facilities within one-half mile of structures such as schools and homes, and with at least 30 homes and a park nearby. Recontek’s proposed site north of Athens would be in violation of the legislative ban. But Alexander managed to bypass House Bill 1099’s provisions by amending Senate Bill 2, a major piece of legislation that combines the Texas Air Control Board and Texas Water Commission. In an interview, Alexander admitted that he wrote the amendment, which provides exemptions for recyclers, specifically for Recontek. Willie Sims, NACC founder and resident of north Athens, hired attorney Rick Lowerre, of Henry, Kelly, Johnson and Lowerre, an Austin environmental law firm, in an attempt to block Recontek’s permit. Sims argues that the site is located in an agricultural area; that there are homes within one-half mile of the plant; that because of the high water table the facility poses a threat to the groundwater and to Cedar Creek Lake, the water supply for Fort Worth and Tarrant County; and that it threatens the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer and nearby Trinity River. Sims also describes the siting decision as an example of environmental racism, because north Athens is predominantly black. After Recontek chose the north Athens site for its plant, the city re-zoned the area from agricultural to heavy industrial. Meanwhile, Charlene Shaughnassy, a member of CCHC, began researching Recontek itself. She contacted Citizens Clearinghouse, an information archive on toxic polluters and toxic waste directed by Lois Gibb, a former resident of Love Canal. Shaughnassy dug up an entire file compiled on Recontek by grassroots opposition groups around the country \(such as the Miller’s River Watershed Council in Citizens Against Risking What Shaughnassy learned was disturbing. According to an investigation conducted by the Miller’s River Watershed Council, Recontek’s first year was fraught with problems. The company’s Newman plant, its only fullscale plant, was cited by the Illinois EPA for five violations of state and federal laws within the first eight months of operation. In its first 13 months of operation Recontek had 109 accidental spills and releases, averaging one every four days, according to the nonprofit Hazardous Waste Facility Safety Council in Boston. The accidents injured workers, caused the plant to be evacuated, released unknown quantities of hydrochloric acid and chlorine gas, and on at least one occasion released chlorine gas outside the plant. Shaughnassy also discovered that S. Wayne Rosenbaum, Recontek’s vice president, has been embroiled in controversy concerning his connection with Eticam, a Rhode Island metals recycling company similar to Recontek. Rosenbaum served as technical director for Eticam until August 1987, one month before Eticam was shut down by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. During Rosenbaum’s tenure, Eticam experienced numerous spills and violations. A federal grand jury investigated Eticam’s finances and one of its vice presidents, Ronald Glantz, was convicted of conspiracy and extortion. Rosenbaum was not implicated. Soon after joining Recontek, Rosenbaum hired Jerry Pett as director of marketing. Pett, a former field-siting representative for Film Recovery Systems in Illinois, had recently been involved in legal troubles of his own. In 1983, a Film Recovery Systems employee, Steven Golob, died while handling cyanide. In a landmark case, Illinois prosecutor Jay Magnuson filed murder charges against Pett and four other officers of the corporation. Magnuson charged that the corporate officers deceived employees into believing they were handling harmless materials. Charges against Pett were later dropped after a judge ruled that the state had not fully made a case against him. Three of the officers were sentenced to 25-year prison terms; the fourth could not be extradited from Utah. CCHC and NACC members also raised concerns about what they called “misinformation” in Recontek’s permit application filed with the Water Commission. The Athens application is based on a Gila Bend, Ariz., application, although there is no plant in Gila Bend. The Gila Bend application is based on a plant in San Diego, where Recontek operates a laboratory but not a plant. Recontek claims a “study” conducted by Texas A&M University concludes that the facility is environmentally safe and will not adversely affect Athens residents. Officials at A&M are quick to point out that no “study” was conducted. Rather, an opinion was issued by Professor Emeritus W. B. Harris. The City of Athens had requested that A&M review the hazardous-waste processing plan proposed by Recontek, but the study consisted of a review of seven letters supplied by Recontek. The letters the company sent to A&M were not technical, but rather opinions of Recontek’s process. Grassroots environmental groups around the country have succeeded in keeping Recontek out of their towns. After investigations started by local citizens in Orange, Mass., Oceanside, Calif., and Liberty County, Ha., Recontek has moved on to Texas. Recontek is also faced with problems which are not technical or political. In May stockholders filed a class-action lawsuit against Recontek’s parent company, PS Group, claiming fraudulent practices related to Recontek. In Athens, the CCHC and NACC managed to get one of their own people elected to city council and in July, after bitter confrontations that divided the town, the City of Athens rescinded its siting agreement with Recontek. Recontek, however, continues to push for its permit. Rep. Alexander maintains that recycling is the best environmental approach for the state of Texas. He dismisses the CCHC’s and NACC’s says it’s a classic “micro vs. macro” view, and that the groups members are not considering what’s good for Texas. Although he is aware of recently released information about Recontek, Alexander contends the economic benefits the company would provide are crucial to his district. However, Alexander says his relationship with Recontek, as well as the state’s relationship with the company, “was all done on the assumption that Recontek was telling the truth about their company.” Alexander adds that he is not a chemical engineer and is not qualified to make technical decisions. But “the Water Commission and the Texas Air Control Board are [qualified]. That is the safety net.” Shermbeck of Texans United says there’s a flaw in Alexander’s “safety net” theory. He says the TACB was created at the behest of large oil companies. According to some environmentalists, the TACB has often worked as little more than a public relations firm for corporate polluters. Environmentalists also charge that until passage of legislation to stop the “revolving door,” many of the officials of these “safety net” agencies left the agencies either to work or to lobby for the same large corporations the agencies regulate. Mary Ann Wyatt, designated a consumer advocate on the Air Control Board, is an example of the conflict of interest within these agencies, Shermbeck says. Her husband, Joe Wyatt, a former U.S. Congressman, is a lobbyist for Formosa Plastics, one of the largest corporate polluters in the state. “We do have a NIMBI attitude, but ours is `now I must be involved,’ ” said Lorrie Coterill. She said the more information grassroots groups get to the people, and the more the people get involved in decisions affecting their own lives and health, the more responsible government and corporations will become. “After all,” Coterill says, “a corporate polluter’s worst nightmare is a mommy with a copy machine.” \(Recontek’s permit hearing will come before the Texas Water Commission Sept. 14. Gibraltar’s expansion permit hearing is sched THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21