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Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 29, 2010 LANDFILL BANKRUPT?

From the Perry Co. Herald...

January 29, 2010

LANDFILL BANKRUPT?

Bankruptcy proceedings will halt pending environmental lawsuits against the two owners of PCA Arrowhead Landfill in Uniontown, but they won’t stop shipments from coal ash from coming to the Perry County facility. Two business entities that own the landfill, Perry-Uniontown Venture I (PUV) and Perry County Associates (PCA), began Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings Tuesday in Mobile’s U.S. District Court, Southern District.

Environmental lawyer David Ludder entered notices of intent to sue the two companies in December of last year on behalf of Perry County citizens living near the landfill. The notices allege violations of the federal Solid Waste Disposal Act and Clean Air Act following the disposal of what environmentalists say is potentially hazardous and toxic coal ash waste there.

“When a party files for bankruptcy, the law imposes an automatic stay against the filing of new litigation against that entity,” Ludder said Wednesday. As long as both companies’ cases remain in bankruptcy court, he said, the environmental lawsuits cannot proceed. “That doesn’t mean we are without options,” he said. Ludder said he could not yet elaborate on what those options might be.

PCA and PUV claim they are owed substantial amounts of money by Phillips and Jordan, a large regional contracting firm that has worked closely with the Tennessee Valley Authority for decades, and Phill-Con Services, an entity created by Phillips and Jordan to operate the Uniontown landfill. Phill-Con has also worked in waste disposal in northern New Jersey, and is one of the firms overseeing the cleanup of the Emory River following the Kingston ash spill. These two companies, though they have no apparent ownership in the landfill itself, were hired by PUV and PCA to operate the facility when it opened in 2007.

P&J and Phill-Con have a $95 million contract to dispose of coal ash from TVA’s 2008 Kingston Coal Plant disaster. Perry County Commission will receive about $3 million of that as part of a “host county fee.” The complaint says Perry County Commission is owed over $700,000 in fees that P&J has failed to pay.

Perry County Commissioner Brett Harrison said he knew money from the landfill was in fact coming into county bank accounts because he had seen printouts of the quarterly wire transfers. The last payment came at the end of December. He said the county had been paid close to $1 million in the agreement so far.

Harrison said had spoken with representatives from PUV since news of the bankruptcy broke. Based on what he had been told, Harrison said all landfill contracts should remain in effect, although he acknowledged the bankruptcy could slow down payments.

Jeffery J. Hartley is the Mobile bankruptcy attorney retained by PUV. In a statement released Monday, Hartley blamed the bankruptcy on “Phillips and Jordan’s refusal to turn over monies to ownership, to make payments they had agreed to make, or to provide a proper accounting of the funds.”

The release goes on to allege that P&J have received “more than sufficient funds” to make payments to PUV and PCA, but failed to do so. As a result, the owners “had no choice but to petition the court to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while it reorganizes,” Hartley said. Despite the bankruptcy proceedings, Hartley said his clients have “all the elements necessary to pay its obligations, to be profitable, and to ensure safe disposal of coal ash.”

Hartley’s release touted the landfill as a “public-private partnership,” saying it has created an “unprecedented economic boost” for Perry County.

Phill Con Services’ website lists Stuart C. Davis of Mobile as its “project executive.” When contacted by the Herald about the allegations against his company in the bankruptcy case Wednesday, Davis was mum, saying he was “on the road all the time” and had “no earthly idea” about the matter.

Besides halting legal action against the facility’s owners, the bankruptcy proceedings help to reveal the complicated nature of the landfill’s business organization. Rather than a single business venture, the landfill is the product of many large and small corporations and limited liability companies, along with a large group of loosely connected personalities whose level of involvement with the project at any given time is often murky.

Atlanta real estate businessmen Larry Matthews [by way of another corporation Matthews formed a year before, SKS International, Inc.], Charles Dinsmore, and Charles Bartenfeld formed Perry County Associates in 1999. Matthews became the public face of “the landfill” in Perry County years before construction even began on the facility. He attended several public hearings in Uniontown while working to gain a landfill permit on the 1113-acre Pitts property south of Uniontown.

That property, however, never belonged to Matthews. Another Georgia real estate developer, Brent Scarbrough, owned the parcel until 2006 when Matthews’ company finally gained the permit it needed to operate a Subtitle D landfill from Alabama’s Dept. of Environmental Management. Scarbrough then sold the land to newly created Perry-Uniontown Venture I for about $16.5 million. Under Alabama law, landfill permits are tied to a parcel of land itself, not the landowner or landfill operator.

At the same time, PUV purchased 231 acres from the Goodson family for $1.5 million. Mike Smith, an attorney in Tuscaloosa who married into the Goodson family, appeared at Perry County’s first public hearing on the landfill to speak out against the landfill. At that time, he said he was concerned over the potential harm it could cause to Perry County’s environment. After the land sale, however, Smith was retained by PCA and PUV as part of their team of attorneys. Since that time, Smith has often appeared at Perry County meetings speaking on behalf of the landfill owners.

It is unclear who currently owns Perry County Associates. Reporters from the Herald attempted to reach Matthews on his cellular phone, but were unsuccessful. Matthews is also a broker for ReMax realty in Georgia, and according to his website, sells real estate through his family company, the Matthews Group. A receptionist at S&D Associates, the ReMax office in Duluth, Georgia through which Matthews works, said she did not know how to reach him. “He’s probably only been in this office one time,” she said. The phone number on Matthews’ website redirects callers to an automated ReMax broker directory.

The major investor behind Perry-Uniontown Venture I, and an as-yet unused entity formed in 2007, Perry-Uniontown Venture II, is Atlanta real-estate heir John K. Porter. According to unsubstantiated reports, Porter may also now own Perry County Associates in its entirety. Porter was the single largest contributor to former Perry County Commission Chairman Johnny Flowers’ failed bid for re-election in 2006, and his only public visit to Perry County was during that election cycle.

At that time, Porter and Matthews held a press conference on the Perry County Courthouse lawn expressing their support of Flowers’ candidacy. At that time, Porter also announced plans to build what he called a “waste-to-energy” plant at the [at the time, proposed] landfill site. He and Matthews claimed that very little of the waste sent to the facility would actually be put in the ground, and most would be processed and burned to generate electricity for the region. As yet, such a facility has yet to materialize. A prominent member of the Atlanta business community, Porter works for international commercial real estate brokers CB Richard Ellis, Inc.

CB Richard Ellis, which often works with Phillips and Jordan, was one of the firms PUV hired to develop the landfill site in 2006. Ellis employee John Delvac took the lead in developing the site and emceed the landfill’s “grand opening” in 2007. When the Herald contacted him last year regarding the coal ash contract, Delvac said his involvement with the project had ended when construction ended and the landfill was open. On Wednesday, however, Delvac contacted the Herald and forwarded Hartley’s press release to its newsroom. At that time, Delvac said he was “still involved” with the venture. He directed any further questions on the matter to Guy McCullough, who he called “our PR guy.” McCullough owns an advertising firm based in Birmingham.

Perry-Uniontown Venture I’s bankruptcy filings also reveal the creditors holding the 20 largest unsecured claims against it. While PUV’s complaint claims Phillips and Jordan and Phill-Con Services are withholding large sums of money they owe the landfill owners, filings reveal that P&J and Phill-Con are also two of the firm’s largest creditors. According to filings, Phillips and Jordan holds a $4 million lein against PUV, and Phill-Con Services is owed $2.5 million in trade debt from the landfill owners.

PUV also lists two other companies owned by its owner John K. Porter as major creditors: it owes nearly $2 million in trade debt to Porter’s corporation Team Porter, Inc. and has a $600,000 loan from Briarcliff 55 LLC, another Porter concern.

Insurance giant Metropolitan Life loaned PUV about $1.25 million, as did Ensign Peak Advisors Inc, a Utah investment firm affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Perry County Commission is listed as a major creditor; with PUV claiming it owes the county around $780,000 in hosting fees. The company also says it owes Alabama’s Dept. of Revenue around $11,000 in sales tax. Filings also say PUV owes a $10,000 loan to Seagull Consulting II, an information technology firm based in Naples, Florida; a $7,695.54 trade debt to First Insurance Funding Corp.; a $5,395.24 loan to Georgia law firm Hartman Simons, which incorporated both Perry Uniontown Venture I and II; a $4,112.30 trade debt to Sadat Associates, a Trenton NJ environmental engineering firm; and $242.25 to Smith & Staggs, Mike Smith’s Tuscaloosa law firm.

The filings list the firm’s unsecured debts, but its largest creditor by far is the mortgage holder on the Uniontown landfill property itself, a Florida-based private equity firm known as Palm Beach Multi-Strategy Fund, to which PUV mortgaged the property for its $16.5 million purchase price in 2006. Palm Beach is part of a group of around 25 business entities affiliated with Palm Beach Capital Management. That bank itself filed for bankruptcy protection late last year following fallout from its participation in a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme headed up by Minnesota businessman Tom Petters.

EDITORIAL: At the risk of making a pun on "moral bankruptcy"...





At the risk of making a pun on "moral bankruptcy"...

We apologize if this week’s front-pager on the landfill owners’ bankruptcy woes seems convoluted. Imagine how we felt trying to piece together all of the players in this bizarre saga for you.

It’s the story of a few Georgia real estate bigwigs and some multi-million dollar businesses; a confusing shell game of small corporations whose owners are difficult to pinpoint; money of dubious origin; one of the largest and most bulletproof public utilities in the nation; and corrupt or incompetent or apathetic government officials at every level.

It’s a story about greed, and the way greed warps people, makes them view the very earth itself as something to be exploited and stripped and pumped for every last dollar it will yield up. The way greed makes human lives, thousands of them, no more important than figures on a ledger.

It’s the story of Perry County, and in one way or another it’s been our story for as long as these borders have existed. There is no way around it; our county and its long-gone riches were built on the backs of oppressed and enslaved human beings. This is a story the people here know well. But that kind of oppression, when white citizens here made vast fortunes by owning the lives of their black brethren, is gone. We are all in it together now.

Perry County has had a hard, painful road towards reconciliation. Its citizens, black and white, still often have a difficult time trusting each other in light of our troubled history. But we’re trying. Look around you: the people, the regular citizens of Perry County, are not its problem.

We may disagree on politics, but we sit together at Commission and City Council meetings and treat each other, mostly, with respect. We are working, just by living here together, toward building a future for this home of ours. We know, and have for a long time, that we all need the same basic things out of life, and as long as we need them together, we can seek them together.

The old bad guys are dead and in the ground. The new ones drive SUVs with Fulton County plates.
…put down your Blackberrys, guys, and stay your attorneys. We don’t mean you’re “bad people.” But in this story, you are the villains.

You’re chasing the American Dream, of course, just trying to make a dollar, providing the country with the valuable and much-needed service of efficient and affordable solid waste disposal. You came by your permits legally, and with the full-throated blessing of Perry County’s elected representatives, who were, after all, just trying to get a little revenue for their little cash-strapped county.

No matter.

Here’s our fear: no amount of money will be able to make up for what the landfill, particularly the coal ash deal, has wrought. The City of Marion has met with ADEM’s furrowed brow over its handling of leachate from the Uniontown facility. While an environmental lawsuit against the city has been halted along with the leachate shipments themselves, environmentalists tell us hazardous materials have already made it form the treatment pond into Rice Creek. If that’s not bad enough, we have seen what appears to be photographic evidence of landfill workers in Uniontown pumping the sludge onto the ground right next to Chilhatchee Creek. Marion may get unscathed, but we wouldn’t bet on it. Phillips & Jordan can afford to pay whatever fines it may incur for whatever its employees may or may not have done. Can the city?

The investors who are taking the bulk of the $95 million generated by the coal ash contract will never have to set foot in our county again once the landfill outlives its usefulness. They’ll never drink our water, or breathe our air, or eat bream from our creeks. They can call the shots from offices with glitzy addresses, never get s speck of ash on their hands, and endorse fat checks until those pristine fingers need a latte break. Can you?

Our elected officials are, for the most part, already better off than anyone who will read this paper. They get power (a teensy little bit, but that’s enough to satisfy most people), they get to rub elbows with folks who have even more money and power than they do, and they get the feeling of knowing they have done something “good” for the people whose lives they govern: they got a smattering of cold, hard cash to spend on pet projects. Feeling warm and fuzzy yet?

This, if we must remind you, is the county where people were willing to sacrifice their livelihoods, their personal safety, even their lives in the struggle for the right to vote, the right to say, “In this small way, my voice matters. I have a say, and mine is worth as much as yours is, no matter who you are.” That voice is now all but drowned out by the sons of the men who fought to get it.

Do you remember the smirks the landfill investors wore as they sat in the bleachers of RC Hatch’s auditorium, a deafening cry directed right at them, telling them, “We don’t want this landfill?” We remember. It’s the same look our elected leaders get when we plebes dare to question their wisdom. It’s the look Franklin Hill gave us when he came to tell us how EPA was going to make sure nothing bad happened here. That look is the look of power, certain of its rightness. Or, if not of rightness, at least of the fact that it will get what it wants.

They get it all, we get their trash.

Or maybe not. Environmental lawsuits get filed one minute, leachate shipments stop the next. A few weeks after that, the owners of the landfill are asking for bankruptcy protection. Doesn’t mean anything’s going to change just yet, far from it. Every statement these fellows have released takes pains to reassure the public the landfill will press on even through these trying times.

Here’s what it does mean: somebody listened. John Wathen listened. David Ludder listened. When people, regular, good, voiceless people like Jackie Fike and Ruby Holmes pleaded for help, money clouded the judgment of anyone who could have. The fatcats saw money, as did your elected officials, and even ADEM. TVA and EPA saw a way out of that embarrassing little flap up in Tennessee.

Fortunately for us, someone looked at Perry County and saw something besides a poor, ignorant little county no one’s heard of, with cheap land and cheaper politicians for the taking. Someone looked down here and saw, of all things, people. Human beings, whose very quality of life had become a mere casualty of the quest to collect as many little green pieces of paper as you can before you die. And somebody realized that was wrong.

When we can step outside of the endless pursuit of more and see that all those things we’re knocking over to get at it have eyes and mouths and names and beating hearts like ours, we’re not so quick to leave them lying in our wake. It’s a lesson Perry County has come by honestly. Will this fiasco finally teach its leaders?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Coalition claims ADEM unfit

Failure of ADEM to regulate coal mining in Hurricane Creek basin was a huge factor in this petition.

Coalition claims ADEM unfit

Environmental groups ask EPA to step in to enforce clean water laws in Alabama

Photo by Robert Sutton, T' News. (Hurricane Creek)


A coalition of 14 environmental groups, including the Friends of Hurricane Creek, is asking the EPA to limit the power of the state to regulate water pollution. Hurricane Creek is shown in this 2004 file photo.
By Jason Morton Staff writer
Published: Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 11:36 p.m.

TUSCALOOSA | A coalition of 14 environmental groups from across Alabama is asking a federal agency to limit the power of the state to regulate water pollution. The coalition claims Alabama has failed to protect the state’s waterways.

The Alabama Rivers Alliance, which includes Friends of Hurricane Creek in Tuscaloosa County, has filed a petition claiming that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management is incapable of adequately enforcing water pollution regulations.

The petition was delivered Friday to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It asks the EPA to remove ADEM’s authority to grant discharge permits and remove the state agency’s oversight of permits already granted.

In essence, the alliance is requesting that the EPA strip ADEM of its regulatory and enforcement powers as it pertains to water pollution.

“We have been very diligent in documenting the ongoing and chronic pollution sources, and ADEM has taken no effort to enforce even the most basic of regulations,” said John Wathen, head of Friends of Hurricane Creek.

Scott Hughes, spokesman for ADEM, said the agency’s attorneys had yet to review the full petition, and could not comment specifically on its content.

However, Hughes said it was a complaint that ADEM intends to take seriously.

“We have received notice of the petition, and we will work closely with the EPA to address all allegations in the petition,” Hughes said. “We take very seriously, not only this petition, but the responsibility that we have to protect Alabama’s land, air and water resources, on behalf of all Alabamians.”

Davina Marraccini, a spokeswoman for the EPA’s Region 4, based in Atlanta, said the federal agency has met with representatives of the alliance to review the purpose behind filing the petition.

She said the EPA would be assigning a lawyer and someone familiar with the details of the federal Clean Water Act’s pollution control regulations to examine the petition.

“We also will be informing ADEM of the petition and requesting a response from them on the individual elements of the petition,” Marraccini said.

Scott Edwards is the legal director for the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international environmental group formed in 1999 by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to help protect more than 100,000 miles of rivers and streams on six continents.

He said that seven similar petitions have been filed against states in the past 15 years or so, resulting in some improvements in the way those states handled water pollution control. However, the EPA has never stepped in to take over a state’s water protection programs.

“Although it hasn’t happened in the past, we’re not so sure it won’t happen in the future,” Edwards said, adding that “from our experience, Alabama has not been doing the job that it should be.”

If successful, the claims in this petition could have a widespread effect on Alabama municipalities and construction efforts.

The Alabama Rivers Alliance is targeting ADEM’s regulatory oversight of water pollution, known as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

The environmental coalition filed a 75-page petition with the EPA that documents what it believes are violations of the act.

Each state is required to implement at least the minimum clean water standards required by federal law.

The petition is supported with more than 200 exhibits, ranging from ADEM-issued permits to at least 15 municipalities that now are in violation of their wastewater discharge permits, the group claims.

“What we’d like to see this petition do in the short term is to bring Alabama at least up to the standards of the national Clean Water Act or exceed them,” Wathen said.

Wathen and others said that the various environmental protection groups have worked with ADEM and the EPA to find ways to improve the state’s water pollution regulations for more than a decade. The groups also have sought relief through lawsuits.

However, the coalition claims that efforts to improve ADEM’s willingness to better regulate Alabama’s water polluters have been met time and again with resistance.

“The water pollution permitting program administered by ADEM is fundamentally broken and does not meet minimum federal standards,” said Mitch Reid, director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance. “This failure is a systemic, statewide problem. From funding to implementation to enforcement, the failures of the current system are leaving the citizens and environment of Alabama unprotected.”

Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.

Green groups claim ADEM unable to protect waters

This post is about more than coal but coal is a huge factor in the petition to remove ADEM from permitting authority!

Green groups claim ADEM unable to protect waters
Robert Sutton / Tuscaloosa News (Hurricane Creek)

A coalition of 14 environmental groups from across Alabama, including the Friends of Hurricane Creek, are asking a federal agency to limit the power of the state to regulate water pollution, claiming Alabama has failed protect the state's waterways. Hurricane Creek is pictured in this 2004 file photo.
By Jason Morton Staff writer
Published: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 12:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 12:42 p.m.

TUSCALOOSA | A coalition of 14 environmental groups from across Alabama are asking a federal agency to limit the power of the state to regulate water pollution, claiming Alabama has failed protect the state's waterways.

The Alabama Rivers Alliance, which includes Friends of Hurricane Creek, has filed a petition claiming that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management is incapable of adequately enforcing water pollution regulations.

The petition was delivered today to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asking that the federal agency remove ADEM's authority to grant discharge permits as well as remove the state agency's oversight of permits already granted.

“We have been very diligent in documenting the ongoing and chronic pollution sources, and ADEM has taken no effort to enforce even the most basic of regulations,” said John Wathen, head of the Tuscaloosa-based Friends of Hurricane Creek.

Scott Hughes, spokesman for ADEM, said the agency's lawyers had yet to review the full petition, and he was unable to comment on its content.

However, Hughes said it was a complaint that ADEM intends to take seriously.

“We have received notice of the petition, and we will work closely with the EPA to address all allegations in the petition,” he said. “We take very seriously, not only this petition, but the responsibility that we have to protect Alabama's land, air and water resources, on behalf of all Alabamians.”

Efforts to reach a spokesperson for the EPA also were unsuccessful this morning.

If successful, the claims in this petition could have a widespread effect on Alabama municipalities and construction efforts.

The Alabama Rivers Alliance is targeting ADEMs regulatory oversight of water pollution, known as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which falls under the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act.

Each state is required to implement at least the minimum clean water standards required by the federal law.

The environmental coalition filed a 75-page petition with the EPA that documents what it believes are violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

The petition is supported with more than 200 exhibits, ranging from ADEM-issued permits to at least 15 municipalities that currently are in violation of their wastewater discharge permits, the group claims.

“What we'd like to see this petition do in the short-term is to bring Alabama at least up to the standards of the national Clean Water Act or exceed them,” Wathen said.

Wathen and others said that the various environmental protection groups have worked with ADEM and the EPA to find ways to improve the state's water pollution regulations for more than a decade. The groups also have sought relief through lawsuits.

However, the coalition claims that efforts to improve ADEM's willingness to better regulate Alabama's water polluters has been met time and again with resistance.

“The water pollution permitting program administered by ADEM is fundamentally broken and does not meet minimum federal standards,” said Mitch Reid, director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance. “This failure is a systemic, statewide problem. From funding to implementation to enforcement, the failures of the current system are leaving the citizens and environment of Alabama unprotected.”


COAL ASH INDUSTRY ALLOWED TO EDIT EPA REPORTS


COAL ASH INDUSTRY ALLOWED TO EDIT EPA REPORTS — Reports to Congress, Brochures, “Fact Sheets” Tailored to Allay Industry Concerns


Washington, DC — For years U.S. Environmental Protection Agency publications and reports about uses and dangers of coal combustion waste have been edited by coal ash industry representatives, according to EPA documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Not surprisingly, the coal ash industry watered down official reports, brochures and fact-sheets to remove references to potential dangers and play up “environmental benefits” of a wide range of applications for coal combustion wastes – the same materials that EPA is currently deciding whether to classify as hazardous wastes following the disastrous December 2008 coal ash spill in Tennessee.

During the Bush administration, EPA entered into a formal partnership with the coal industry, most prominently, the American Coal Ash Association, to promote coal combustion wastes for industrial, agricultural and consumer product uses. This effort has helped grow a multi-billion dollar market which the industry worries would be crimped by a hazardous waste designation.

The documents obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act show how this partnership gave the coal ash industry a chance to change a variety of EPA draft publications and presentations, including –

  • Removal of “cautionary language” about application of coal combustion wastes on agricultural lands in an EPA brochure to be replaced with “exclamation point ! language” “re-affirming the environmental benefits…that reinforces the idea that FGD [flue gas desulfurization] gypsum is a good thing” in the word of an American Coal Ash Association representative;
  • A draft of EPA’s 2007 Report to Congress caused industry to lobby for insertion of language about the need for “industry and EPA [to] work together” to weaken or block “state regulations [that] are hindering progress” for greater use of the coal combustion wastes; and
  • EPA fact-sheets and PowerPoint presentations were altered at industry urging to delete significant references to certain potential “high risk” uses of coal combustion wastes.

“For most of the past decade, it appears that every EPA publication on the subject was ghostwritten by the American Coal Ash Association,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, who examined thousands of industry-EPA communications. “In this partnership it is clear that industry is EPA’s senior partner.”

This collaboration is not limited to publications, however. EPA staff also forewarned industry about conference calls and other intra-agency deliberations, such as growing concerns about “increased leaching of arsenic” from “increased use of fly ash” in order to let industry know where to target its lobbying efforts. The working relationship is so close that a coal ash industry representative joked to EPA staff in an October 27, 2008 e-mail, referring to a news article about mercury contamination from coal ash:

“We are in bed with the EPA again, it looks, at least according to this article. The advocacy groups are well organized and have the ready ear of the press.”

“It is no joke – the terms of the coal ash partnership tucks EPA snugly into bed with industry for the purpose of marketing coal combustion wastes as a product,” Ruch added noting that the partnership is still in effect. “EPA is supposed to be an objective regulatory agency dedicated to protecting the public instead of protecting a gigantic subsidy for a powerful industry.”

###


Review the EPA partnership with the coal industry

Read e-mail about replacing cautionary with exclamation point language

See industry comments on draft EPA Report to Congress

Examine alterations to EPA PowerPoint presentation

Trace industry changes to EPA “fact-sheet”

Look at EPA heads-up to industry

View the “in bed with EPA” e-mail

Tuscaloosa News on Coal Ash

From The Tuscaloosa News

By Jason Morton Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 11:34 p.m.

Perry County landfill owners file for bankruptcy

Photo by John L. Wathen, Hurricane CREEKKEEPER
Flight provided by SouthWings

A bankruptcy filing has halted any threat of legal action against the operators of a Perry County landfill that has been receiving shipments of toxin-laden coal ash that spilled from a Tennessee power plant in 2008.
A bankruptcy filing has halted any threat of legal action against the operators of a Perry County landfill that has been receiving shipments of toxin-laden coal ash that spilled from a Tennessee power plant in 2008.
Owners
Perry Uniontown Ventures and Perry County Associates own Arrowhead Landfill.

Operators
Phillips and Jordan Inc. and Phill-Con Services LLC operate the 978-acre site near Uniontown.

At Issue
The owners filed for bankruptcy protection, saying the operators have withheld significant portions of a $95 million contract awarded by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The bankruptcy petition was filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Mobile by landfill owners Perry Uniontown Ventures LLC and Perry County Associates. They are seeking protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code while they sort out a business dispute with landfill operators Phillips and Jordan Inc. and Phill-Con Services LLC.

Perry Uniontown Ventures and Perry County Associates own the land and environmental permits for the Arrowhead Landfill, a 978-acre landfill near Uniontown that is the recipient of tons of coal ash that spilled from the holding pond of the Tennessee Valley Authority's coal-fired Kingston Plant in December 2008.

Since July 2009, almost 1 million pounds of the ash, which is known to contain toxins and heavy metals such as arsenic, have been delivered by railroad from Roane County, Tenn., to the Arrowhead Landfill.

According to court documents filed Tuesday, Phill-Con Services and Phillips and Jordan Inc. are accused of withholding significant portions of a $95 million contract awarded by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the Kingston Plant.

As a result, Perry County taxpayers have yet to receive almost $780,000 in fees from the coal ash deposits, the bankruptcy petition alleges.

Jeffery J. Hartley, attorney for the landfill owners, said they had no choice but to petition for Chapter 11 protection while they reorganize, because Phillips and Jordan has refused to pay them.

Attempts Tuesday to reach attorneys for Phillips and Jordan and Phill-Con Services for comment were unsuccessful.

Also, Perry County Commissioners could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Hartley, in a news release, said the operation of the landfill would not be affected while the business dispute is sorted out in the courts.

“The Arrowhead Landfill has all of the elements necessary to pay its obligations, to be profitable and to ensure the safe disposal of coal ash from the Kingston Plant ... ,” Hartley said. “The facility will continue to operate safely and with the extraordinary standard of excellence established throughout the facility's life.”

That operation is at the heart of lawsuits that were being prepared by Florida-based environmental lawyer David A. Ludder on behalf of about 150 Perry County residents.

Feb. 5 marks the end of a 60-day notification window required before Ludder could file the suits claiming violations of environmental protection laws.

“With bankruptcy comes an automatic stay against new litigation against the bankrupt party,” Ludder said. “So the residents will not be able to file a lawsuit against the two bankrupt parties until their bankruptcy is resolved.”

Ludder was preparing to claim that leachate, a liquid-based sludge containing coal ash-infused water along with other deposits in the Arrowhead Landfill, had been taken by pump truck to the city of Marion's wastewater treatment plant for disposal.

Not only had Perry County Associates not obtained the necessary permits from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for such a disposal, the Marion treatment plant was unequipped to handle such material, Ludder said.

The result was an odor reportedly emanating from the landfill and the treatment plant, although the shipments to the wastewater plant halted after Ludder filed a complaint and a notice to sue late last year.

Some residents reported suffering from headaches, nausea and vomiting, and Ludder said that many had been forced since the summer to keep doors and windows shut at all times in order to fight off the smell.

The odors, Ludder said, constitute violations of both the Clean Air and Solid Waste Disposal acts, which prevent landfills from causing odors that could do harm to nearby residents.

“About 150 Perry County residents have been inconvenienced and harmed as a result of the way the landfill was being operated,” Ludder said.

BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!!!

John Wathen/Southwings

Perry County’s Arrowhead Landfill Going Bankrupt?
January 26th, 2010

What Happened to the Millions from the TVA Coal Ash Contract?

Toxic TVA coal ash by the train load is filling up the local landfill only designed for household garbage, not hazardous waste, in Alabama’s Black Belt…

by Glynn Wilson

The Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County, Alabama — where TVA is hauling millions of tons of coal ash in one of the biggest environmental cleanups ever – has filed for bankruptcy protection just days before a major lawsuit was to be filed, sources say.

It is not clear whether this decision will stop shipments of the toxic fly ash to Alabama’s Black Belt, or halt the ongoing cleanup in the Emory River in Kingston, Tennessee.

It is also not clear where the money went from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which contracted with the landfill for millions of dollars to take the waste, although sources say it ended up in New Jersey, not Uniontown, Alabama.

Environmental lawyer David Ludder, who confirmed the bankruptcy petition, said he and other attorneys representing local residents are investigating the options available to those in the community.

He said the filing of the bankruptcy petition automatically stays or prevents any new lawsuits from being filed against the company, Perry County Associates, at this time.

“I see it as an opportunity for any new operator to do a better job,” Ludder said, “and an opportunity for the residents to approach them and demand that they do a better job.”

No one from the company could be reached for comment at the numbers listed in Uniontown or Atlanta on their Website.

But Jeffery Hartley, an attorney for Perry Uniontown Ventures, which filed for bankruptcy in federal court in Mobile, told the Birmingham News it had “no choice given Phillips and Jordan’s refusal to turn over monies to ownership, to make payments they had agreed to make, or to provide a proper accounting of the funds.”

Perry Uniontown Ventures I owns Arrowhead Landfill. Phillips & Jordan Inc., and Phill-Con Services operate the landfill under an agency agreement with Perry Uniontown Ventures.

Hartley said the bankruptcy filing would not affect the operation of the landfill, “which will continue to operate safely and effectively, without interruption.”

Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen says the landfill has not been operating safely or effectively, since he has discovered the company dumping liquid waste into ditches along the road in front of people’s houses.

Check out more of this story and the best coverage of this controversy in the country here:


Eddie Dorsett, President Phill-Con Services, issued the following statement via e-mail Tuesday night after 11 p.m.

“While the bond-holders and the owner of the Perry County landfill work out some kind of agreement, it is important to understand those discussions are separate and apart from the day to day operation of the landfill, and have no effect on the employment of workers at the site, the safe disposal of the coal ash, or on the contract for disposal between TVA, Phill-Con Services, and Phillips and Jordan,” Dorsett said.

Perry-Uniontown Ventures owes Phillips & Jordan and Phill-Con for work performed and services rendered with respect to the landfill, he said.

To date, PUV’s earnings from the fly-ash disposed of by Phillips & Jordan at the Arrowhead Landfill do not cover the amount owed to P&J and Phill-Con Services, and “we have applied those funds to that outstanding balance,” Dorsett said. “We advised PUV about our plan to deal with the outstanding debt to us in a September letter. We have also made payments on PUV’s behalf for the host fees, financial assurance and other costs to ensure that the landfill continues to operate within all of the regulatory requirements.”

At the time of the permitting, he said, his company made several assurances to the federal regulators, the state and to the local government and neighbors in Perry County.

“We have honored each of those commitments and will continue to do so,” he said. “We promised the TVA coal ash disposal project would create new jobs, and it has. To date, we have hired 60 full-time equivalent jobs and have paid more than $2.5 million in total wages and benefits.”

He said the agreement called for payments to the county on every ton of coal ash disposed at the landfill.

“To date, we have made more than $800,000 in payments to Perry County,” he said.

As part of the contract with TVA and to satisfy requirements from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, he said, “we have made regular payments to a special fund to cover post-closure costs for the landfill.”

The most recent payment of $212,000 was made on time, he said, and the total fund is now in excess of $2.4 million.

“We promised local government and our neighbors that we would operate the landfill and the disposal of the coal ash in a safe and responsible manner,” he said.

To date, there have been three inspections by the state and another three inspections by a joint state/Environmental Protection Agency team, he said, and “there have been no notices of violations from any of these inspections.”

There have also been two public meetings held by EPA and ADEM, he said, and three inspections by the Federal Railroad Administration.

“Again, there were no violations from any of these activities,” he said. “Our contract with the current owner provides us with operational control of the landfill facility regardless of who owns it. Therefore, we want to assure the people of Perry County that we will continue to operate the facility in a safe and responsible manner, we will continue to provide good jobs, and we will continue to make good on our financial commitments.”

More Coverage

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Coal Ash Spill Anniversary as Forgotten as Disaster Itself

TVA Dumps Toxic Coal Ash in Poor Alabama Town

TVA to Begin Coal Ash Spill Cleanup March 20

Tags: Alabama's Black Belt, Arrowhead Landfill, Perry County Associates

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 at 4:38 pm and is filed under Environment News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
6 Responses to “Perry County’s Arrowhead Landfill Going Bankrupt?”

1. Rowland Scherman Says:
January 26th, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Wow. Whatta surprise! One would think that those who were about to file the lawsuit might have been more clever about it.
Or done it sooner. There’s a lesson here, folks.
2. Glynn Wilson Says:
January 26th, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Actually, Ludder filed a mandatory notice to sue in 60 days. The bankruptcy petition was filed a few days before that 60 days was about to be up, to prevent the lawsuit from being filed. In other words, it’s a delaying tactic, which I’m told, prevents a stay of the landfill’s operation as well. So presumably, the shipments will continue indefinitely…
3. CREEKKEEPER Says:
January 27th, 2010 at 2:55 am

RIGHT ON GLYNN!!!!!!!!!!
4. Yana Davis Says:
January 27th, 2010 at 10:52 am

A mess in multiple ways. Meantime, toxic waste is being dumped literally onto people’s yards (or close by) and nothing is being done. Time for a class action lawsuit with the meanest litigator that can be found.
5. Glynn Wilson Says:
January 27th, 2010 at 4:44 pm

The lawsuit is stayed, Yana, for the time being, because of the bankruptcy filing. It is time for EPA to step in…
6. John Clark Says:
January 29th, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Great coverage, guys, better by far than anything I’ve seen on the wire. Our paper, which is the local weekly, has done a lot of coverage on this issue.

If you want to read more, check out our website. It’s probably the most convoluted story I’ve covered.

http://perrycountyherald.com/default.aspx

Kennedy Blankinship debate

Bobby Kennedy was the obvious winner in this historic debate...
"
RFK Jr.'s passion for environmental protection carries the day
Photo: Lawrence Pierce, West Virginia Gazette
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People began filing into the University of Charleston's auditorium nearly two hours before the debate began. Charleston police, county sheriffs, state troopers and UC police lined the hallways and entrances. There were rumors of activists chaining themselves to trees and coal miners planning a huge rally. Television cameras were stationed along the walls and in nearly every corner of the auditorium.

It was the hottest ticket in town. All 950 seats in the main auditorium sold out in a few days, and an overflow room holding 2,000 more was expected to be fill. The biggest debate of the century was happening: Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship against Waterkeeper founder Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

The UC dean, Dr. Edwin H. Welch, moderated. He walked onstage 15 minutes before the debate began, telling the audience that "it does not happen very often in our society to have people who disagree so much come to speak together…we're going to try and recapture the art of argument tonight."

Welch introduced Blankenship first. Ushers separated miners and environmentalists between rows of UC students. Kennedy received 200 tickets for the event, as did Blankenship. UC distributed the rest. Miners cheered for Blankenship while enviros sat silent. Kennedy came on to huge cheers from enviros as miners kept folded hands in their laps.

Because the debate was being broadcast online and on television stations across West Virginia, the three men sat silently on stage. At exactly 6:30 p.m., Welch asked Blankenship the first question. (In case you missed the debate, listen to full audio courtesty West Virginia Public Broadcasting.)

Blankenship immediately turned on his folksy charm, while Kennedy used facts and figures to support his points. Blankenship spent the majority of the evening relying on fear: fear of politicians, fear of environmental regulations, fear of litigation, fear of China and India and jobs overseas. He pushed fear of the unknown: if regulations occur, miners would lose jobs. If we don't mine more coal, China and India will take our jobs away. Where Kennedy used facts, Blankenship used conjecture. Where Kennedy inspired, Blankenship wallowed.

I was sitting on an airplane out of Charleston this morning and two women walked past me down the aisle. I only heard a snippet of their conversation, but one said "They needed a more professional moderator, like a journalist or something. Kennedy just seemed to turn every answer into a speech, it was like he was not even listening to the question."

I thought about this comment the whole flight and realized the moderator really had nothing to do with it. Kennedy's responses sounded like a speech because he brought a real emotional investment to this debate. He wants West Virginia to be a cleaner, stronger state. He wants West Virginians to have good paying, clean and sustainable jobs. He wants to clean up pollution from this dirty fuel called coal and turn us towards a better, more profitable (not just financially) and sustainable future. I felt like Blankenship could have been talking about whether it was going to snow this weekend or how the prospects look for next year's Mountaineer Football. Kennedy had passion, and Blankenship—despite having the fate of thousands of workers and the future of West Virginia in his hands—was simply just there.

Facts and figures help win debates, and Kennedy was well equipped with both. But even if Blankenship arrived with consensus from every scientist and economist about the future of coal in West Virginia, without any sense of emotion and passion, he never had a chance.

Finally, for a more comical debate on mountaintop removal mining, check out Dr. Margaret Palmer's recent appearance on the Colbert Report. Dr. Palmer is lead author of the recent Science magazine article that concluded "scientific evidence of the severe environmental and human impacts from mountaintop mining is strong and irrefutable." The Dig Dug footage is priceless."

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Coal Comfort - Margaret Palmer
www.colbertnation.com
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