Weekly News Bulletin: Mar. 21-27, 2002


SEC Sues Former Waste Management Executives

Federal securities regulators have sued the founder of trash hauler Waste Management Inc. (NYSE: WMI) and five other former top executives, accusing them of a "massive" fraud to inflate profits by $1.7 billion to meet earnings targets. The Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit filed in Chicago charged founder and former Chairman Dean Buntrock, ex-President Phillip Rooney, former Chief Financial Officer James Koenig and other executives with falsifying Waste Management's financial results between 1992 and 1997. The civil complaint also claimed the executives were aided by long-time auditor Arthur Andersen, already indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for its role in the collapse of energy giant Enron Corp. The executives have proclaimed their innocence, and Waste Management, which merged with USA Waste several years ago, has publicly distanced itself from its former leaders...Read More »



EPA Proposes Recycling Plan Through Gasification

As part of an initiative to promote flexible, innovative ways to recycle more wastes while reducing the nation's reliance on fossil fuels, the EPA has proposed a shifting in manufacturing from waste management to productive recycling and resource conservation. The proposal would conserve natural resources by supplementing crude oil sources in electricity production, petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing. Specifically, the EPA is proposing to allow certain hazardous byproduct materials to be processed with gasification technology in order to produce a clean, safe source of power generation. This promotes increased energy efficiency while reducing the volume of hazardous waste that would otherwise be treated and disposed of on land. Gasification is a technology that puts coal and other carbon-containing materials under high temperature and pressure to convert them into purer synthetic gas...Read More »



Pennsylvania Moratorium Triggering Waste Crisis

Pennsylvania is facing a fast-approaching crisis in waste-disposal capacity because of a de facto state-imposed moratorium on permits for landfill expansions, according to the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association. Pennsylvania has less than 6.3 years of available capacity statewide for disposal of municipal solid waste and less than two years of adequate capacity in the eastern half of the Commonwealth, the PWIA said. The PWIA's analysis is based on permitted volume and disposal volume statistics published by the state Department of Environment Protection. This information indicates that by the end of next year, if the situation remains unchanged, the southeastern, northeastern, and south-central regions of Pennsylvania will face a capacity deficit of more than 12,000 tons per day and that by the end of 2006 the north central region of the Commonwealth also will run out of capacity...Read More »



Senate Considers Interstate Waste Hauling Restrictions

The Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee has begun discussing whether Congress needs to intervene to curb increases in garbage being shipped across state lines. From 1993 to 2000, out-of-state waste imports climbed from 14.5 million tons to 32 million tons a year, according to the Congressional Research Service. Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) introduced legislation last week that would allow states and municipalities to freeze waste imports at 1993 levels and set limits on how much imported waste a landfill could receive. Ohio is among the top importers of solid waste, along with Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan and Indiana. New York is the largest exporter of trash since New York City recently closed the Fresh Kills Landfill. Other large exporters are New Jersey, Illinois, Missouri and Maryland...Read More »



Waste Management Replaces Andersen

Waste Management Inc. (NYSE:WMI) will replace Arthur Andersen with Ernst & Young LLP as its external auditor. Waste Management said its audit committee also decided that Ernst & Young should provide only auditing-related services, rather than both auditing and consulting services. Waste Management is working to repair its reputation after a series of class-action suits over an accounting scandal three years ago that forced it to restate financial results. The company took a $389 million charge in the third quarter to settle the last of the suits. Andersen paid a $7 million penalty--the largest fine ever levied against an U.S. accounting firm--for its handing of Waste Management's books...Read More »



Chrysler Begins New Recycling Initiatives

The Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler AG is experimenting with a process it says will make it easier to recover and recycle plastic from junked vehicles and turn it into new vehicle parts. The automaker estimates using recycled plastic could save $10-$20 per vehicle. The key element to the program is using a new, proprietary technology developed by Salt Lake City-based Recovery Plastics International, which separates the different types of plastic found in automotive shredder residue in landfills. So far, the process has been successful at separating eight of the 25 varieties of plastic representing 80 percent of the plastic used in a vehicle...Read More »



Report Challenges Handling of Radioactive Waste

A new report from the National Research Council contends that the federal government inconsistently decides whether slightly radioactive materials should be recycled, put in a landfill or securely stored. There is no evidence public health has been jeopardized, the report notes, but the council says it is bad public policy to have haphazard decision-making. At issue are the tons of materials that are thrown out at existing commercial nuclear facilities or sites being decommissioned. The licensees that operate the facilities say it is cost effective to recycle the lightly radioactive scrap into everyday items or release it into landfills. But environmentalists say they want it stored in a secure, isolated facility as nuclear waste. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission makes the decisions. The study found the NRC doesn't always use the same criteria to judge similar materials...Read More »



New York City Reconsiders Incinerators

Incineration has long been a non-starter issue in New York City disposal talks. The city's last municipal incinerator closed in the early 1990's, and environmental and political disputes, as well as abundant other options, have kept any more from getting off the drawing board. But those alternative options are diminishing, leading Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to air the possibility of incineration. Cost issues are driving the city1s search for new disposal options. Between 1998 and 2000, the cost of exporting the city's trash beyond its borders more than tripled, and is projected to more than double from that amount by 2004 to $238 million a year, according to the city's Independent Budget Office...Read More »


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