BW0011  MAR 26,2000       14:41 PACIFIC      17:41 EASTERN


( BW)(DC-COHEN-MILSTEIN) Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C. Announces the Following...Local Citizens Victorious Against Waste Technologies Industries -- WTI -- in Notorious SLAPP Suit


    News Editors/Legal & Environmental Writers

    WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 26, 2000--Citizens in Ohio and West Virginia who for three years have been victims of a vicious and unfounded Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) filed by the owners and operators of a hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio have learned that the suit has been "suspended." The incinerator is located 1100 feet from an elementary school.
    Filed in early 1997 against citizens who had spoken out and demonstrated against the environmental dangers of the location of the incinerator, the SLAPP by WTI sought over a million dollars against each of approximately thirty citizens for alleged abuse of process, tortuous interference with business relations, frivolous litigation conduct, and vexatious litigation. The SLAPP by WTI singled out the most vocal opponents, Teresa Swearingen and Alonzo Spencer, with numerous additional charges of defamation. WTI now states that on Friday March 24, 2000 it filed papers dismissing its SLAPP, which had been pending in the Columbiana County Court of Common Pleas in eastern Ohio. The following facts are relevant to the timing of WTI's dismissal:


--   On Monday March 27, 2000 WTI's response was due to a motion filed
     in court by attorneys for the citizens that requested the court
     to order WTI to finally turn over documents and provide corporate
     testimony relating to the SLAPP; the citizens had been requesting
     such discovery for years without any cooperation from WTI. In
     their March 10, 2000 motion attorneys for citizens had asked the
     court to consider dismissing WTI's SLAPP for its "contumacious"
     refusal to provide documents and testimony to back up its SLAPP
     allegations.

--   WTI had been ordered by the court to respond by April 4, 2000 to
     another motion by the attorneys for citizens in which they had
     requested the court to enter summary judgment against WTI on the
     defamation claims.

--   The court had recently dismissed as legally groundless WTI's
     vexatious litigation claim against the citizens. The court had
     also significantly narrowed WTI's frivolous litigation claim.

--   WTI was required to respond in mid-April to discovery requests by
     attorneys for the citizens in which WTI would have had to either
     acknowledge the baseless nature of its allegations or produce
     evidence to back up them up.



    Attorney Michael D. Hausfeld, Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, PLLC, (Washington, D.C.) who represents Mrs. Swearingen and Mr Spencer, responded to WTI's claim that it had dropped the SLAPP as a good faith gesture: "It is too late to call WTI's acts `good faith' after three years of attempting to intimidate and harass these citizens for the sole reason that they spoke out against the environmental threat to their community. They were innocent victims of WTI's legal actions. Companies such as WTI need to put their extensive resources into protecting the community from environmental harm, not suing citizens who speak the truth." Mr. Hausfeld further stated, "The SLAPP by WTI was part of a pattern by environmental offenders to chill free speech and the right to petition government. Attorney Matthew F. Pawa of Cohen, Milstein also represents Mrs. Swearingen and Mr. Spencer.
    The location of the WTI incinerator has been the subject of intense local, regional and national media attention. The incinerator is located only 1100 feet from a public elementary school and 400 feet from the nearest homes. The location was legally impermissible under Ohio law at the time the incinerator was constructed but was grandfathered in due to the issuance of the permit to construct prior to enactment of the law prohibiting such siting.
    SLAPPs have become an increasingly common plague on state and federal courts around the country as polluters and other companies turn to the courts to impose expensive litigation costs on their local opponents. SLAPPs are suits without substantial merit that typically allege defamation, business interference, and abuse of process and similar claims against adversaries. SLAPPs are almost never victorious in the traditional sense of winning a lawsuit but can frequently obtain their main objective of silencing opposition to their business plans. Several states, including Massachusetts and California, have enacted anti-SLAPP statutes.

     --30--ah/sf*  ari/sf

     CONTACT: Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, PLLC
              Michael D. Hausfeld or Matthew F. Pawa, 202/408-4600 
               or
              Matthew F. Pawa 202/363-4329, cell: 202/257-4809
              (on Sunday)
 
     KEYWORD: OHIO DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA WEST VIRGINIA MASSACHUSETTS 
CALIFORNIA 
     INDUSTRY KEYWORD: LEGAL/LAW ENVIRONMENTAL