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UPI: Gore's WTI promise
United Press International
NEW YORK -- The administration of President-elect Bill Clinton will try to keep a hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio, from beginning operations until Congress investigates the facility, it was reported Monday.
The New York Times said Clinton's transition office Monday would release a statement in which Vice President-elect Al Gore says five senators from Ohio, Pennsylvnaia and West Virginia had joined him in calling for the investigation, which would be conducted by the General Accounting Office.
The statement said GAO should investigate the Waste Technologies Industries plant's safety and how it got its state and federal operating permits.
In the statement, Gore says the new administration will seek to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing a permit for the test burn in January.
"For the safety and health of local residents rightfully concerned about the impact of this incinerator on their families and their future, a thorough investigation is urgently needed," Gore said. "Too many questions remain unanswered about the impact of this incinerator and the process in which it was approved."
Janice Bircher, a spokeswoman for Von Roll Inc. which built the $160 million plant, said the plant will begin limited burning of wastes this week. She added that in January the plant is to hold a crucial test leading to full commercial operations.
She said the company will not interrupt its schedule in response to Gore's action.
"It's a scary turn of events when political intervention takes precedence over our legal system, over an army of qualified regulatory officials," Bircher told the newspaper.
The plant, which can burn 60,000 tons of toxic wastes a year, was completed earlier this year amid a decade-long battle over pollution, public health, jobs and claims that government officials broke the law in approving its construction and operating permits.
The plant is built on a flood plain near a residential neighborhood in a river valley know for its stagnant air.
Gore visited the Ohio River Valley twice during the presidential campaign and promised to conduct an investigation.
Jeffrey Zelik, manager of the plant, says the investigation demanded by Gore will turn up nothing new. The company has passed every regulatory tests and legal obstacle thrown in its path by opponents. Last month, a federal district judge in West Virginia refused to grant an injunction that would have stopped the initial tests of the incinerator.
"This is a state-of-the-art plant," Zelik said, "and it will put much less pollution into the air in this valley than the steel and chemical plants and coal-burning power plants up and down the river. The public is being misled by a group of zealots who will do anything and say anything to prevent us from operation."