Landfill continues to pay environmentalists
by Becky Blanton, The Klickitat County Monitor
Klickitat County, WA - April 16, 2002 - Dr. Lyle Ferch, a Goldendale dentist, first voiced the rumors about a settlement agreement in a Goldendale City Council meeting in the fall of 2000.
I hear that Dennis White was paid off to lay off his lawsuits against Rabanco, he said. Is that true?

Rabanco is the largest and most sophisticated waste-by-rail carrier in North America, handling many thousands of rail containers each year.  With offices in Seattle, the Rabanco landfill is also Washington state's largest privately owned waste handler and recycler. Klickitat County is Rabanco s partner in the landfill.

Since the time Ferch first asked his question of the council, IRS records and information requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) turned up evidence to answer his concerns. A settlement agreement between local environmentalists and the landfill company were indeed reached prior to the construction of the landfill.

Settlement monies from the Rabanco and Klickitat Citizens Against Imported Waste (KCCAIW) were also provided to put the children or descendants of Dennis and Bonnie White, David Thies, Betty Thompson and Pat Schroder through college.

The fund receives five to seven cents per ton for each ton of waste processed at the plant.
With two million tons of waste a year going into the landfill, that s about $140,000 a year the Klickitat County Citizens Against Imported Waste have to spend on environmental issues, mitigation and education. According to the agreement, the money is used to maintain or administer real property which mitigates the operational impacts associated with the landfill.
With the projected expansion of the landfill, Ferch and other county residents are asking if the Whites and the Klickitat Land Preservation will benefit from the increase in tonnage or will the contract need to be renegotiated?

No comment, said Pete Keller, of Rabanco.

Dennis White did not return phone calls requesting information about the agreement.

In the decade since the Rabanco settlement was reached, citizens not associated with the lawsuit or the settlement are now wondering where that money, more than $1.5 million dollars in the years since the agreement was signed, has gone.

Where is the land that was supposedly bought with that money and why hasn t the public been informed about what is happening with it? asked Ferch.

Local citizens are still considering a class action suit against the Klickitat County Environmental Fund.

They allege that the trust fund established by the terms of the Rabanco settlement agreement have not met the terms of the agreement. Rabanco management and its employees are prohibited from speaking about the settlement or its terms. When asked if the Whites will receive additional monies from the projected landfill expansion, Pete Keller, a Rabanco spokesman refused comment.

No comment, said Keller.

Ferch said he and others, wrote the members of the KCCAIW last year, requesting information on the public lands supposedly purchased with the monies and copies of the group s tax return. By law, non-profit corporations must provide copies of their tax returns upon request.

Ferch said citizens who did write for the information were directed to contact White s attorney and to quit harassing him regarding the information on the lands purchased.

That information was available directly through the IRS however and showed the terms of the agreement. The agreement stipulates that:

3. From its annual proceeds from Landfill operations, RRLC shall make payments into an account controlled by Citizens or their designee, known as the Klickitat County Environmental Fund.

4. The purpose of the Fund generally is to allow Citizens or their designee to purchase, develop, maintain or administer real property to, in their discretion, directly or indirectly mitigate the operational impacts associated with the Landfill, a CDL/woodwaste Landfill and an Ashfill.

 Citizens may, in their discretion, either manage the fund themselves, or appoint other persons or organizations to manage it. Expenditures may be made to purchase land or rights in land in KC [Klickitat County] and for other actions consistent with the purposes listed above, and the land so acquired may be made available for public enjoyment if appropriate.

Provided, however, that no expenditures may be made toward acquisition of rights in land lying within a radius of ten miles of the Landfill, or within 1/2 mile of any existing or proposed RRLC facility. Title or other rights in real property may be held by Citizens or their designee, but may not be held by RRLC or its affiliated companies. Citizens or their designees shall have sole responsibility for ownership and management of property acquired with Fund monies.

RRLC shall pay into the Fund the following amount per ton of solid waste accepted for disposal in either the Landfill, a CDL/woodwaste landfill or an Ashfill. From the date of the opening of the landfill until December 31, 2000, RRLC shall pay .05 cents per ton. From January 1, 2001, until December 31, 2010, RRLC shall pay .07 cents per ton. From January 1, 2011, until December 31, 2020, RRLC shall pay .09 cents per ton.

6. Solid Waste as used in this Agreement has the meaning provided by Ch. 173-304 WAC, and specifically includes CDD/Woodwaste and special incinerators or ash. The amount of the Fund payment shall be calculated on a semi-annual basis, and shall be payable two month(s) after each semi-annual period. Semi-annual periods shall run from January 1 to June 31, payment due September 1st, and from July 1 to December 31, payment due on March 1st.

7. RRLC shall reimburse Citizens for its attorney fees, expenses and costs incurred in this matter to date of the Agreement, amounting to $33,500 (thirty-three thousand, five hundred dollars), and shall pay Citizens an additional $16,500 for legal fees and for administrative expenses in establishing the Fund concurrently with the receipt of all necessary signatures from Citizens. While the agreement says money may be used to purchase land for public use and enjoyment, Klickitat County residents, including Ferch, say they haven t seen the land advertised or even acknowledged on maps as public land.

If this was open to the public for public recreating, this should have been listed as public use land.

I have all the DNR maps and materials and this I don t see where his property is listed on these quads. I don t see where it is, he stressed.

It would be interesting to go back and get his land titles and see if it s here, but I don t believe it is there, he said.

It should have been announced. If he is buying this for the public good, why was it kept secret for 11 years? Why did he go around telling people he had not benefitted personally from these lawsuits? Ferch asked.

Ferch has repeatedly asked that White open the books to the non-profit organization for the public s review and says he has repeatedly been denied that opportunity. White claims that Ferch will distort the information he finds.

White has also refused to allow any other parties to view the records. While all of the financial agreements are not available, IRS documents do show that at least part of the money was used for personal gain.

Citizens [meaning Citizens Against Imported Waste] are specifically empowered to use the settlement proceeds from the Public Land Trust for the use of three, four year scholarships (tuition, room, board and books) for the children or descendants of the five signatories.
The selection of the scholarship recipient(s), and the amount of their award, shall be decided by a majority vote of the signatories and shall be in their equitable discretion but shall not exceed a monetary value equivalent to a Washington State Public College.

The names and signatures of the members of the Klickitat County Citizens Against Imported Wastes (KCCAIW) on the agreement are: David Thies, currently the president of The Columbia Gorge Audubon Society (CGAS) as well as the CGAS Ways and Means Chair; Betty Thompson, Director of KCCAIW; Bonnie White of Husum, Director of KCCAI and currently the treasurer and membership director of CGAS.

Dennis White, also of Husum, who is now the CGAS Washington Conservation Chair; Pat Schroder, of Vancouver, then the Director of KCCAIW and also a CGAS member. White has been on many environmental membership lists and remains active in lawsuits and activities in the Gorge.

In the June/July 2001 issue, page 6 of The Garryana Rag, the Columbia Gorge Audubon Society s newsletter, White also claims to be part of the charter group that formed to structure the removal of the Condit Dam on the White Salmon. Prior to KCCAIW White was a member of the Columbia Gorge Coalition, a group who was pushing for federal control of the Columbia River Gorge.

A long time activist, White was also scheduled to appear to testify in favor of the passage of the Scenic Act at the Senate hearings in June of 1986. White, however, was sick at the time and David Thies took his place, testifying instead.

The attorney for KCCAIW was John Karpinski, better known to Klickitat County residents as the attorney for the Audubon Society and the Iron Workers who unsuccessfully sued to stop development on the Goldendale Energy Plant. Karpinski also testified at the Senate hearings in favor of the Scenic Act.

Karpinski, along with 23 others who represented themselves as the conservation and environmental community, submitted written testimony in favor of the Scenic Act. However Karpinski signed his testimony as Karpinski, Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club. Besides being a Sierra Club member, a member of the Washington Environmental Council, and the Clark County Natural Resource Council, Karpinski is also a board member of the Columbia Gorge Legal Defense.

Betty Thompson, one of the signatories on the agreement, was the former secretary of the Klickitat County Port District and also testified at the Senate hearings in favor of the Scenic Act. For many residents of the Gorge, the signing of the Scenic Act in 1986 would be the first action to protect a sensitive and valuable resource, for others, it signaled the beginning of the end of individual private property rights.

While the Rabanco agreement would be the first environmental lawsuit to impact the county, it wouldn t be the last, and it wouldn t be the only lawsuit to come out of the passage of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Act.

While those involved in the original legal actions against Rabanco refuse to comment, citizens around the county have not.

If he (Dennis) files another lawsuit against Rabanco this time, he s not going to have as easy a time getting it, a senior at a recent Republican fundraiser proclaimed. We know about him now.

Becky Blanton
The Klickitat County Monitor
P.O. Box 429
Lyle, WA 98635
(509) 365-6804
(509) 365-6830 FAX


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