Consol Fined

 Eighteen officers and directors of the Consolidation Coal Company (Consol), the second largest coal company in the United States, were each hit with $198,000 in civil penalties in December 1994 for the company’s failure to reclaim its Burnham mine located on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico.

The notice of violation and subsequent cessation order were issued pursuant to a mine inspection conducted by the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM). The inspection was conducted in response to a citizen’s complaint filed by the Citizens Coal Council, a public interest group, on June 1, 1994.

OSM charged that the Consol failed to reclaim the Burnham mine, which was abandoned by the company 10 years ago.

E.I. duPont de Nemours owns a controlling 50 percent interest in Consol and the company represents one of Dupont’s largest holdings. Consol officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Citizens Coal Council spokesperson Will Collette said that the company ignored the violations and the cessation order from OSM to reclaim the mine.

On December 14, 1994, OSM issued the individual civil penalties for “knowing and willful” violation of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

OSM spokesperson Alan Cole says that the law requires that “people who are mining coal fully reclaim and revegetate when they are finished mining — they have to put it back the way it was before they started mining.”

Ortho’s PR Cover-Up

 Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, pleaded guilty in January 1995 to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, one count of obstruction of justice, and eight counts of corruptly persuading employees to destroy documents relating to a federal investigation of the drug company’s Retin-A public relations campaign. The company will pay a $5 million fine and $2.5 million in restitution to the government.

The charges against Ortho relate to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Justice and grand jury investigation into an extensive public relations campaign, conducted by Ortho from 1985 to 1988, that generated publicity about Retin-A’s use in the treatment of sun-wrinkled, or “photoaged” skin, federal officials said.

The FDA approved Retin-A in 1971 for the treatment of acne. But the agency has not approved Retin-A for use in the treatment of photoaging, nor has the FDA approved a new drug application that would permit Ortho to label or promote Retin-A for photoaging.

Outside public relations agencies employed by Ortho conducted the extensive public relations campaign for Retin-A from 1985 through 1988. In 1988, the FDA began investigating Ortho’s involvement in Retin-A publicity. In late 1990, the Justice Department began its own investigation.

On January 2, 1991, FDA investigators questioned two former Ortho employees about Ortho’s Retin-A public relations program. And on January 3, 1991, the Justice Department served a grand jury subpoena on Johnson & Johnson, Ortho’s parent, seeking documents from Johnson & Johnson and Ortho relating to the campaign to disseminate information about the use of Retin-A as a treatment for photoaging.

Ortho admitted that on January 3, 1991, the day a grand jury subpoenaed documents from Johnson & Johnson, Ortho’s parent, high-ranking Ortho representatives directed and authorized employees to destroy documents and materials relating to the program to disseminate information about the use of Retin-A to treat photoaging.

In compliance with this directive from high-ranking Ortho representatives, employees of the company destroyed thousands of documents, including documents showing that Ortho exercised close control and direction over the work of the public relations agencies employed by Ortho to generate Retin-A publicity. Employees also removed videotapes relating to Retin-A and photoaging from Ortho’s Main Administration Building, federal officials charged.

“The destruction of documents by a major corporation to thwart a federal investigation is outrageous misconduct that simply will not be tolerated,” says Frank Hunger, head of the Justice Department’s civil division.

Cutting the Corporate Dole

 A group of Interior Department employees has called for federal officials to end corporate welfare by cutting subsidies to big business.

Phil Doe, the Denver-based president of the Reclamation Employees Organization for Ethics and Integrity, says that while water subsidies are intended to assist small farmers, the Bureau of Reclamation continues to deliver subsidized water to wealthy estates and large firms — including the Shaklee Corporation, which receives subsidized water to grow roses in California and fruit in Oregon. Limiting these subsidies to their intended recipients could save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, he says.

Doe says that water spreading — the unauthorized irrigation of lands that are ineligible for the program — continues unabated. According to the Office of the Inspector General, such abuses cost the government and estimated $37 million to $46 million between 1984 and 1992.

“Cases like these prove that a fundamental reinvention [of government] still has not taken place at the Bureau of Reclamation,” concludes Jeff DeBonis, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “The savings from laying off a few low-level staff pales when compared to the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that continue to be lavished on a few wealthy special interests. If the Clinton Administration and Congress are serious about implementing real welfare reform, they should start with the Bureau of Reclamation.”

— Russell Mokhiber