A Pennsylvania trash hauler and his businesses have proven themselves far too untrustworthy to be allowed to compost sewage sludge in Wetzel County, an administrative law judge has recommended to the Public Service Commission.

The 69-page decision from Administrative Law Judge Sunya Anderson concludes that the PSC should deny a certificate of need requested by Lackawanna Transport Co. and its owner, Pasquale "Pat" Mascaro of Harleysville, Pa.

"The undersigned ALJ cannot find a properly descriptive adjective for an entity and its officers that are so pervasively unfit," Anderson's ruling said.

Anderson agreed with the Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, which opposes the request, that the history of Lackawanna and a sister company reveals "utter contempt for the communities in which they operate."

"That history also demonstrates the same contempt for any law, regulation or order with which they must comply," the ruling said.

The ruling recounts numerous circuit court and Department of Environmental Protection orders issued against Mascaro, Lackawanna and Valero Terrestrial Corp. since the early 1990s for their landfill operations in the Northern Panhandle. The ruling includes a similar listing of actions taken against Mascaro operations by Pennsylvania regulators.

Anderson agreed with the solid waste authority that the public "quite rightly cannot trust LTC to obey the law and comply with its permits" and that "this record is totally devoid of any suggestion that the LTC composting operation is of any use to anybody."

At its March hearing before Anderson, Lackawanna's lawyer, William Fox, was the company's sole witness. Anderson's ruling, issued Wednesday, concludes that Fox "was not a credible witness."

Neither Fox nor lawyer Logan Hassig of New Martinsville, who represented Lackawanna at the March hearing, could be reached for comment Thursday.

Lackawanna had asked Anderson to consider the $1.1 million it spent to build the facility as well as the estimated $710,000 it promises to pump into the region each year through wages, taxes and local purchases.

"Even if it were considered, the amount of money put into the local economy pales besides the present and potential costs to the community," the ruling said.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Silas Taylor, who represented the solid waste authority, said authority officials were pleased with Anderson's ruling.

"Frankly, nobody's paid any attention to (these facilities) before. They feel vindicated," Taylor said Thursday.

The PSC ruled in May that Lackawanna must apply for a certificate of need to operate the compost facility.

BLO fecit 20031119
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