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Published: Wednesday, 8/20/2003

Whose landfill is it?

It's unacceptable that state officials are getting the runaround as they try to determine just who owns the Envirosafe landfill in Oregon.

Theirs is not idle curiosity. State law requires that ownership of hazardous waste landfills be disclosed, and that the backgrounds and fingerprints of officers, directors, and key employees be provided.

There are good reasons. One is to ensure competency and reliability of operations. The other is to assure - and this is crucial - that this business stays free of criminal influence, organized or otherwise.

It isn't Envirosafe locally that is balking. In our experience, it has always worked hard to stay within the law.

The problem lies in the fact that the landfill is run, or was, by Envirosafe Services of Ohio, Inc., whose parent company was Envirosource, Inc. of Pennsylvania. In 2001 Envirosource merged with E.S. Acquisitions Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of GSC Recovery II L.P. GSC, in turn, is a subsidiary of GSC Partners of Florham Park, N.J. Got it so far?

In the meantime a local lawyer has identified Fairline Management Corp., incorporated in Delaware last year, as the current parent of Envirosafe Services of Ohio. GSC Partners owns 70.6 percent of Fairlane's shares. Those of the other owners are held by trust companies.

The state sought the ownership data in January, 2001. The tangled web of owner firms still hasn't been sorted out to the state's satisfaction.

Richard Sargent, an Eastman & Smith lawyer representing these New Jersey interests, argues unconvincingly that the partners are so far removed from Envirosafe's daily operations that Ohio law has no business applying to them. Nonsense.

The law was passed to protect Ohioans from an array of ills, some of which can only be hatched in secret.

The state should hire investigators to see who is involved in GSC and Fairlane. Maybe New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer would lend Ohio his best. The state should also haul the parties into court, including the trust companies; and, if they continue their reluctance, withdraw Envirosafe's permit. A hazardous dump is a public safety issue. There can be no compromise.

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