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Nader says Gore broke promise on incinerator

September 28, 2000

EAST LIVERPOOL, O. - Ralph Nader yesterday accused Vice President Gore of breaking an eight-year-old promise to block operation of a hazardous waste incinerator that is 320 feet from the closest home and 1,100 feet from an elementary school in this eastern Ohio city.

"It illustrates once again what a certified public coward Al Gore is, how he speaks with forked tongue, and an elongated Pinocchio nose on one issue after another," said Mr. Nader, the presidential candidate of the Green Party. He spoke near East Liverpool Elementary School, which is on a bluff slightly below the top of the incinerator's stack.

Mr. Nader called on Mr. Gore to shut down the Waste Technologies Industries incinerator, saying the company should give its 185 employees two years of severance pay. Emissions from the incinerator - among the largest in North America - include mercury, dioxin, and lead. The furor over the incinerator has made international news and become a lightning rod for environmentalists who oppose Mr. Gore.

Jim Kennedy, Vice President Gore's communications director, said last night that Mr. Gore did not violate any pledge about WTI in 1992.

"We reject that claim as well as any mischaracterizations of what the Vice President said. The Vice President and the administration have worked hard to do what is necessary to protect public health. The WTI facility has been scrutinized by the EPA more closely than any facility of its kind."

A WTI executive also defended Mr. Gore, saying he fulfilled his pledge through a General Accounting Office report in 1994 that said federal environmental regulators acted properly in approving and regulating the incinerator.

"To adopt a position on an issue without thoroughly reviewing of all facts, as Nader has done here, is irresponsible and dangerous to democratic society," said Fred Sigg, WTI's vice president and general manager.

While campaigning near Weirton, W. Va., in July, 1992, Mr. Gore said: "The very idea of putting it in a flood plain, you know, it's just unbelievable to me."

"Al Gore is unbelievable," Mr. Nader said yesterday.

On Dec. 7, 1992, Vice President-elect Gore released a statement that the Clinton-Gore administration would not issue the incinerator a permit for a test burn until federal officials answered "serious questions" about whether the incinerator would be safe.

A month later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Bush gave approval to WTI to conduct its test burns. Mr. Gore has maintained that the "legal ability to stop that permit was removed because the last administration went ahead and did it after the election, but before the inauguration."

But Mr. Nader said Mr. Gore has failed to document that he asked the Bush-controlled EPA to delay approval of a permit for an incinerator test burn.

"Gore's broken promise to stop WTI was a lie to the children of East Liverpool Elementary School and the entire tri-state area," said anti-WTI activist Terri Swearingen, referring to Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. "Now he's lying about his broken promise."

The test burns at WTI in 1993 revealed that the incinerator released toxins in amounts greater than federal regulations allow, with mercury and dioxin levels high enough to give the Clinton-Gore administration "ample reason to deny approval of full commercial operations" by WTI, Mr. Nader said.

The General Accounting Office report released in September, 1994, noted that the EPA lowered toxic emission standards to allow the incinerator to operate, Mr. Nader said.

Ms. Swearingen said Mr. Gore may have violated his pledge because Jackson Stephens, a Little Rock, Ark., ally of Bill Clinton, was involved in the project. Von Roll, WTI's parent company, contributed $10,000 to the Democratic National Committee late in the 1992 campaign, she said.

In response to a question about hazardous waste disposal if WTI were shut down, Mr. Nader said the nation should prevent the generation of hazardous waste, enhance recycling efforts, and if materials can't be recycled, then use "dumps that are carefully lined so they don't leak."

"You don't burn it and then put it back in people's lungs and children's bodies," he said.

Mr. Sigg said Mr. Nader carries the banner of a party whose platform is "decidedly anti-industry and anti-environmental technology."

Paul Mahan, who has worked at WTI as a maintenance technician for 10 years, was among a dozen incinerator employees who watched Mr. Nader's speak. They sat silently in the bleachers as about 200 Green Party backers cheered their man.

"He just doesn't know that our plant is safe and environmentally correct," Mr. Mahan said. "Something has to be done with hazardous waste. You just can't bury it year after year. Incineration is not the best thing in the world, but it's the best way to get rid of waste now."

Nonetheless, Mr. Mahan - a lifelong Democrat who said his party no longer appears interested in helping "working people" - said he might vote for Mr. Nader on Nov. 7.

"I believe that he's right when he talks about corporate America and how it's taken advantage of people. But I've also seen corporations that do help people," he said.

As Mr. Nader campaigned in East Liverpool and Youngstown, the Green Party filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus to attach "Green Party" to Mr. Nader's spot on the Nov. 7 ballot in Ohio, instead of "independent."

The Secretary of State's office has said Mr. Nader will be on the ballot as an independent because the Green Party has not qualified as a major party under Ohio elections law.

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