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Developer backs clean air group
New opposition to incinerator expansion is funded by a proposed landfill builder.
By CHUIN-WEI YAP, Times Staff Writer
Published January 29, 2008
DADE CITY - Incorporated just three weeks ago, Clean Air Florida Now is a nonprofit group based in Clearwater and run by three Pinellas County residents.
But some of its money comes from a source in east Pasco: the Iafrate family, better known locally as Angelo's Aggregate Materials.
Angelo's wants to build a landfill that could potentially cover more than 1,000 acres just east of Dade City.
Seemingly in lockstep, Clean Air Florida Now is urging the county to stop the expansion of its waste-to-energy trash incinerator. An expanded incinerator would potentially kill the proposed landfill's prospects.
Last week, Clean Air Florida mailed fliers to all Pasco households and set up a Web site to emphasize its message.
Jerry Kissel, director of Clean Air Florida, doesn't make much of a secret of his funding.
But, just for fun, here's a hint:
On the group's Web site, www.cleanairflorida.com, a right-click on the "properties" of its information brochure brings up a box that says: "Angelos-mailer8x11.jpg."
"The Iafrates are one of the contributors to Clean Air Florida," Kissel said Monday.
But he's not telling how much.
"We have received support from a number of contributors and have received a lot of support from the community," Kissel wrote in an e-mail. "Contributors don't always want their relative contributions disclosed, so that is something that we would rather not disclose."
In a letter to the Tampa Tribune, published Oct. 19, Kissel said he had done some air-quality consulting for Angelo's.
Because of his expertise, Kissel had gotten involved in discussions with the Iafrates on solid waste disposal issues, according to Bob Lotane, Angelo's spokesman. Lotane said Kissel wanted to get involved in the landfill debate, and Dominic Iafrate, vice president of Angelo's, "was all for it," Lotane said.
"Jerry asked Dominic to contribute to Clean Air Florida, and he did," Lotane said.
Clean Air Florida's fliers and Web site call the incinerator a threat to public health and the environment. They call on the county commissioners to develop its recycling program. They say an extra incinerator burner would cost $285-million and mean more than 300,000 pounds of particulate matter, mercury and nitrogen oxides in additional pollution every year.
Not true at all, the incinerator's representatives said.
"This flier is flat-out wrong and appears designed to intentionally mislead," said Beth Leytham, spokeswoman for Covanta, the company that runs the county-owned incinerator at Shady Hills. "As is well known, this facility has been Clean Air Act retrofitted and meets or exceeds all federal and state standards."
Leytham said that the incinerator's emissions have all been well within allowable standards and that the same standards would apply on any possible expansion. Off the cuff, she also estimated the expansion cost between $115-million and $125-million, not $285-million. (A county consultant's early estimates for expanding the incinerator ranged from $229-million to $353-million, but those figures included operating costs for the next 20 years.)
Kissel said Clean Air Florida wants to educate the public on air pollution and human health.
A former air program administrator for the state Department of Environmental Protection, Kissel now lives in Clearwater - but that's no matter.
"When I was at the DEP, I learned that air pollution is a regional issue, which very much affects human health, even at great distances," Kissel wrote. "Air pollution does not stop at the county line. When a new incinerator is built, even though it meets air quality standards, it still contributes to the air pollution load over a wide area, with the resulting negative effects on human health."
Kissel said that the Shady Hills incinerator was already permitted by the time he arrived at the DEP, though he was involved in its regulation when "its permit was renewed or changed and in the sense of helping to insure its continuing compliance."
State officials say Kissel retired from the DEP in May 2005.