MAY 1989 - VOLUME 10 - NUMBER 5
B E H I N D T H E L I N E S
Exxon Dealers vs. Exxon
At the same time as Exxon Co. U.S.A. is facing nation-wide criticism for its negligence in preventing and dealing with the oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, the company is being accused by Texas service station owners of violating antitrust and deceptive trade practices laws. In the suit, which is not related to the Exxon tanker accident, 19 Exxon dealers are seeking more than $5 million in actual and unspecified punitive damages from Exxon, charging that the oil company's practices have created an unfair competitive situation.
The dealers allege that Exxon has interfered with their efforts to buy gasoline at cheaper wholesale prices. This practice cuts into the service station owners' profits and results in higher fuel prices for consumers. The dealers also claim that the oil company has given selective rental rebates to some franchises, and exercises undue control over the sale of stations and over the inheritance of stations after the death of their dealers.
Such operating practices are not uncommon in the oil industry and this lawsuit is not the first of its kind. According to the Lone Star Service Stations Association, a dealer lobby which is helping the Exxon dealers with their suit, more than 80 similar lawsuits involving the oil industry are pending in nine states.
Islands of Garbage
The Marshall Islands recently negotiated a deal with a U.S. waste disposal company to accept millions of tons of trash shipped from the United States. Exclusive rights were granted to Admiralty Pacific, Inc. pending the results of an environmental study to be conducted by the waste disposal company.
The California-based company hopes to begin trans-porting the wastes from the United States by June 1990 and expects to ship millions of tons of garbage each year. The plan calls for the Marshall Islands to receive up to one-tenth of the non-toxic waste produced on the West Coast of the United States. Daniel R. Fleming, president of the company, said that it has already signed garbage collection contracts in California, Washington and Oregon.
The Marshall Islands' government expects to be paid about $56 million per year for accepting the waste shipments and plans to use the waste as landfill to increase the arable land area of the small island nation and raise the land level to a safer height above sea level. (Almost all of the Marshall Islands currently lie fewer than five feet above sea level.)
The arrangement will increase the Marshalls' revenue as well as size. The islands badly need the money. In 1986 the islands became a republic, forfeiting their status as a U.S. Trust Territory and the $150 million in annual U.S. aid that came with it.
Admiralty Pacific has sold the plan as the answer to the Marshall's' problems. "One person's garbage can in reality become another person's treasure," says a confidential company document, obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The company documents also show, however, that Admiralty stands to make a profit of $25.6 million. Critics of the plan say that this and other waste export proposals are unfair because they allow the United States to bribe poorer countries into accepting the huge amounts of trash generated in this country.
Garbage imperialism, the dumping of waste by the West on the Third World, has been condemned by environmentalists and governments around the world. Other islands in the Pacific have recently rejected offers similar to Admiralty's. Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tonga have all refused to approve waste disposal and incineration proposals made by U.S. firms in the last year. According to Senator Tony de Brum, of the Marshall Islands' parliament, "more than 40 nations have turned down the U.S. offer regarding the dumping proposal." But President Kabua supports the plan, claiming that his country needs both the money and the landfill.
The parliament approved Admiralty's scheme by a vote of 20-3. The dissenters expressed concern that the U.S. company might violate the agreement by bringing toxic wastes along with the non-toxics allowed by the agreement. "How can we know that the so-called house-hold garbage is non-toxic waste?" asked Senator Hiroshi Yamamura, who represents one of the islands contaminated by radioactive fall-out from the U.S. testing of nuclear weapons in the 1950s. "Admiralty Pacific may hide the toxic waste in order to get the money," he said to the parliament.
Environmentalists point out that household garbage from the United States is likely to contain materials such as cleaning fluids, lead-based paints and pesticides. Greenpeace estimates that one ton of such trash contains 20 pounds of toxic materials. Admiralty Pacific claims it will remove the toxic materials from the waste before it takes it to the Pacific, but Greenpeace says that the high cost of removing the toxics from the garbage before exporting it would prevent the waste company from making a profit on the deal.
EPA Bucks Bush
Bucking the trend of the Reagan administration, William Reilly, President Bush's head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), spoke last month in favor of tighter fuel economy standards for automobiles. He is the first member of the Bush administration to state a position on these regulations. Under Reagan, the average milesper-gallon targets were lowered, enabling automobile manufacturers to produce larger, less fuel-efficient cars.
Environmentalists have been fighting for higher fuel efficiency standards for more than 10 years; the transportation and oil industries have fought to lower those standards. Reilly asserted that raising the requirements by as little as one mile per gallon, from 26.5 to 27.5 miles per gallon, would decrease the amount of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere by two million tons.