This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Envirocare of Utah's new owners Tuesday asked the state to rescind the Tooele County landfill's permit to accept waste up to thousands of times more radioactive than what is allowed now, and they promised to support a proposed ban on such material.
Steve Creamer, Envirocare's new chief executive, during an afternoon news conference handed a letter to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. that he said contained the request to extinguish the permit for so-called Class B and C waste.
The action came as the new owners announced their purchase of Envirocare had closed Monday night and ended months of speculation about whether they would seek radioactive waste hotter than the Class A they are now allowed to accept.
The question was crucial to lawmakers considering whether to advance bills to ban the hotter waste - and to Huntsman, whose campaign vow to keep the waste out of the state led him to return contributions Creamer made to his campaign and inaugural committees.
Creamer is backed by the New York investment firm Lindsay Goldberg & Bessemer, the majority owner, and Salt Lake City-based Peterson Partners, headed by Joel Peterson. Former owner Khosrow Semnani, who started the successful business 17 years ago, announced the sale in mid-December for an undisclosed sum. Industry observers have guessed Envirocare sold for at least $500 million.
"This is really a nervous day for me. It's an exciting day," Semnani said during the news conference. He thanked his employees, family and "all levels of government who have been supportive of Envirocare," then left quickly before the briefing ended.
The company's new owners also purchased from Charles Judd 315 acres of land next to its facility. Judd served as Envirocare's president during the time Semnani was forbidden to head the company as part of a plea deal in a bribery case involving the former director of the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Judd in December announced he would pursue B and C waste and highly radioactive material from a Fernald, Ohio, Superfund site at his proposed Cedar Mountain waste site.
On Tuesday, Judd said he wasn't abandoning his pursuit of B and C waste. Judd said he was looking at other properties outside of Utah as well as in Tooele County.
"We have spent a significant amount of money in Tooele County. In the millions," he said. "Tooele County is still an option and so is the kinds of waste we want to take."
Two bipartisan bills before the state Senate with identical language seek to ban any waste hotter than what Envirocare already can accept. One is sponsored by Sen. Patrice Arent, D-Murray, the other by Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, co-chairman of a legislative task force that met for two years to consider issues surrounding hazardous and radioactive waste.
Bramble kept his bill's final language under wraps until Tuesday. He said he didn't want to bring out the ban proposal until the Envirocare sale closed for fear of potential litigation.
Bramble's bill has 21 co-sponsors, Arent's, 10. Some senators signed on to both bills. Bramble predicted it would sail through the House, too, and be enacted immediately.
Tuesday morning, during a meeting with The Salt Lake Tribune, Creamer said he committed to forgoing the hotter waste last summer when he met with venture capitalist Fraser Bullock about pursuing the purchase of Envirocare.
Lance Hirt, a Lindsay Goldberg & Bessemer partner, said that his company's clients are large families with old wealth who aren't interested in quick returns on their investments. The firm, which has $2 billion in investments, concentrates on stable businesses with long-term growth potential.
Hirt said that Creamer's track record with his partner Chip Everest, as well as their confidence in Peterson's company, contributed to their interest in Envirocare. Also crucial to the alliance was Bullock, who helped Creamer make the connections he needed to complete the sale.
Bullock will head a new Envirocare charity, seeded with $1 million, dedicated to protecting and improving Utah's environment.
Peterson was an early investor in the discount airline JetBlue, founded by former Utah resident David Neeleman.
His three partners include Richard Durham, a former executive with the Huntsman Corp. and brother-in-law of the governor.
Bullock said he acted as the go-between for the Envirocare purchasers and the governor, telling Huntsman at the end of November the sale was imminent.
Around that time, Creamer said, a Huntsman associate organizing the governor's inaugural approached him.
"They asked for a contribution," Creamer said.
Huntsman later returned the $25,000 contribution as well as $15,000 Creamer had given to his campaign. Jason Chaffetz, the governor's chief of staff, in early January told The Tribune they had no idea Creamer was involved in the Envirocare purchase. Creamer said Tuesday that the incident hurt his feelings.
The new owners pledged to run Envirocare with more transparency than Semnani did. "We intend to run this with an open policy so the people of Utah do know what we're doing," Creamer said.
That promise rang a little hollow with Envirocare critic and Healthy Environment Alliance Utah spokesman Jason Groenewold, who was barred from the Envirocare news briefing.
Still, he said, the ownership change and decision to give up the B and C permit were good news.
"We're cautiously optimistic," Groenewold said. "We have four
intense weeks to make sure the Legislature and the governor formally act to ban
hotter nuclear waste."
The ABCs of N-waste
* State and federal regulators use an "ABC" scale to label low-level radioactive waste. It can include items such as gloves, glass and plastic lab supplies that have come in contact with radioactive materials
* Class A waste is the least radioactive but most abundant and the only one currently allowed for disposal in Utah. The A waste at Envirocare is mostly dirt
* Class B and C waste can be thousands of times more radioactive
than class A waste
* Education: Utah State University, 1973
* Worked for state transportation and environmental protection agencies
Creamer & Noble, with Reed Noble;
East Carbon Development Co., with Doug Foxley;
* Sold ISG in 2002
Under new management
* Managing director of Sorenson Capital
* Chief operating officer of Salt Lake Organizing Committee
* Founder of Alpine Consolidated
* President, COO of Visa Interactive
* Founding partner of Boston-based Bain Capital, along with Mitt Romney
* Peterson, of SLC's Peterson Partners, prefers to invest in high-growth companies with strong margins on products or services and that have a history of profitable operation
* Ex-managing partner of Trammel Crow Co.
* Serves on the board of JetBlue Airways
* Partner, Lindsay Goldberg & Bessemer, the New York investment partnership
* Hirt says the firm's customers prefer to hang on to solid businesses and wouldn't be interested in Envirocare if it weren't a well-run enterprise
* Invests primarily in privately held businesses and focuses on long-term growth rather than quick returns.