Names in the News

Green by Association

GEORGIA PACIFIC, ONE OF THE LARGEST U.S. paper companies, recently aired a commercial associating the company with two major environmental organizations without having received permission from either environmental group.

 The commercial features a Georgia Pacific employee, Patricia Runner, who says that she is a member of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy. The commercial goes on to espouse the company's concern for the environment.

Both WWF and The Nature Conservancy are considering what actions to take against Georgia Pacific, although they do not appear to have grounds for legal action against the company.

 "They didn't get our permission, and we're concerned," says The Nature Conservancy's Ron Getz. Francis Grant-Suttie, director of corporate relations for WWF, says, "Had we been made aware of the commercial, we would not have approved or endorsed the commercial."

 Runner's "language was her own," says Georgia Pacific's Sheila Weidman in response to the environmental organizations' criticisms. "She is just stating a fact that she is a member of The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund. No, we didn't contact them and tell them that we were going to use her reporting those facts. ... She's not using their names for any endorsement."

 Georgia Pacific has been sharply criticized by environmental groups in the past, especially for its timber-cutting practices in the U.S. Pacific Northwest at the expense of wildlife and natural habitat.

Texaco's Star Settlement

A TEXACO AFFILIATE AGREED in early September to pay approximately $50 million to 180 families, in the single largest residential settlement of its kind, for damage claims after their neighborhood was virtually destroyed by an underground oil leak.

 The Texaco affiliate, Star Enterprise, will also pay about $150 million to compensate up to 450 families in neighborhoods that had their property values decrease dramatically since the oil leak was discovered at the facility in Fairfax City, Virginia. There are still about 20 families who did not opt for the settlement, and they will face Star in court next spring.

"In less than one year from the time the litigation was first started, the residents of these communities have been able to achieve the most comprehensive contamination recovery ever obtained and have hopefully established a framework for future relief in other similar situations," attorneys for the residents said in a statement.

The leak was first brought to Star's attention by residents in September 1990. In September 1991, the Stockbridge Community Association brought a lawsuit against Star seeking clean-up and removal of the oil, and a cessation of the facility's operations to determine the source and size of the leak. At the time, Star denied that the leak was a problem.

 In April 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency found that more than 100,000 gallons of oil had leaked from the Star tank farm into the Fairfax City residential area.

Residents were able to smell the fumes in the air. Jack Maskell, a local resident, described the area as "like living in a gas station." Thirteen feet of oil-saturated soil is under some of the homes. Four families were forced to evacuate their homes in May 1992. In June 1992, normal operations at the Star tank farm stopped and an independent audit of the plant began.

 Texaco and Star have agreed to make "significant improvements and structural changes at the Star Terminal," according to the home owners' lawyers.

UTC Busted

THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT'S ONGOING Operation Ill-Wind investigation of the defense industry has turned up another case of admitted corporate fraud. United Technologies Corporation (UTC) of Hartford, Connecticut pleaded guilty in August to four felony counts related to defense procurement fraud and public corruption.

UTC admitted to conspiring to defraud the government and to commit wire fraud in connection with the procurement of a Marine Corps radar control system known as "ATACC."

Federal officials charged that officials of Norden Systems, a UTC subsidiary, hired Thomas E. Muldoon, a consultant, to obtain information from the government relating to the ATACC procurement, including the Navy's rankings of the ATACC competitors and other confidential evaluation information. Additionally, in exchange for money, George G. Stone, a Navy procurement official, acted to keep Norden Systems in the competition when other Navy officials wanted to eliminate the company.

 As part of its plea agreement, UTC agreed to pay the maximum criminal fine of $500,000 per count for a total of $2 million. In addition, UTC agreed to pay $2.5 million in civil claims and $1.5 million for costs of investigation and prosecution. The settlement raises the total of fines, civil recoveries and cost savings resulting from the Operation Ill- Wind investigation to over $230 million.n

-Ben Lilliston