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Lawsuits: Members of Landry transition team operated illegal waste dump for years

Gov.-elect Jeff Landry, then the state's attorney general, talks to reporters outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 7, 2022, in Washington.
Evan Vucci
/
AP
Gov.-elect Jeff Landry, then the state's attorney general, talks to reporters outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 7, 2022, in Washington.

This story was originally published by Verite News.

A co-chair on Gov.-elect Jeff Landry’s coast and environment transition team has been embroiled in litigation for nearly a decade because of his alleged illegal operation of a dump for toxic and hazardous oil and gas waste in Montana, according to court records. And another member of that team was co-owner of the company that operated the dump for at least part of the time it was open.

Tony Alford, who was announced as one of the co-chairs of Landry’s coast and environment council in October, was a co-owner and president of a Houma-based fracking company named Dual Trucking and Transport. Among his partners in the company was Gordon Dove, who is now Terrebonne Parish president and was recently named to the same transition team.

The company was accused in two separate lawsuits of storing wastes from its operations without a license and spilling toxic and hazardous wastes into the environment about a decade ago in southeast Montana.

To environmental and climate advocates, the transition team appointments underscore their concerns about Landry’s connections to the oil and gas industry and lack of urgency about addressing climate change at a particularly crucial time. Landry famously held up a sign that read “Drilling=jobs” during a 2011 speech by President Barack Obama and has been on record saying that he thinks climate change and global warming are a hoax.

“Alford being appointed to help guide Governor-Elect Landry’s transition council on Coast & Environment, despite being the owner of a company with a record of illegally disposing of toxic waste without permits in environmentally sensitive areas, is disappointing but not surprising,” Jackson Voss, the climate policy coordinator for the Alliance for Affordable Energy, a New Orleans group that advocates for affordable and environmentally responsible energy, said in an email.

Alford and Dove founded the company in 2010 along with, Brian Robichaux and Timothy Thompson.

Both were listed as owners of the company when it was first cited by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in 2012, though Dove later got out of the business.

In a brief phone interview, Dove claimed to Verite News that he was not involved in the company. But his name and signature appear in state business records for the company as well as two apparently related companies with similar names — Dual Trucking, Inc. and Dual Trucking of Montana — that were also named in one of the suits.

The Landry transition team and Tony Alford did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.

The company handled a slew of chemicals at its Bainville, Montana location, including some that are carcinogenic, according to court records.

The Montana DEQ sued Dual Trucking and Transport in 2014, claiming that it was doing business without the proper permits and demanding that it cease its operations in the state. The next year the company was sued by a family who leased the land out to them for violating their lease by operating the dump and spilling wastes onto land that wasn’t part of the lease. Both lawsuits are ongoing.

Chemicals listed in the Montana DEQ suit include ones used in fracking, cleaning petroleum products, refining petroleum and wastewater treatment. The state environmental agency said in a 2014 news report that one of the substances was mildly radioactive.

According to Montana state court records, the company leased property from landowners Garth and Wagner Harmon in 2011 and began using it to treat, store and dispose of waste from fracking operations in the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota shortly thereafter. The Montana DEQ was tipped off about the operation in July 2012 and sent a warning letter to the company two months later, ordering it to shut down and clean up the site or face financial penalties.

In February 2013, five months after their initial letter, the Montana DEQ received a report from the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center informing the state of a hazardous waste spill at the Dual Trucking and Transport site. Testing by the DEQ later revealed that contents of the spill likely got outside of the site and entered the soil and water of the nearby ecosystem. In court documents, the DEQ said that the water had hydrocarbons — which are found in fossil fuels — in concentrations above what’s naturally occurring. The site was within a few hundred yards of a housing development, according to a complaint to the National Response Center.

The month after the spill, the agency sent letters to the company once again ordering it to clean up the site, discontinue operations and obtain a permit. In June that same year, the company applied for a license with the state, but ultimately never came into compliance with the state’s regulations and operated without a license for nearly two years, according to court filings by the Montana DEQ.

In April 2014, the company discontinued operations in Montana, allegedly leaving behind 1,400 tons of drilling waste behind on the property it leased, according to court records. In its lawsuit, the DEQ asked for $643,000, an injunction stopping the company from operating a solid waste dump without a license and requiring the company to assess the extent of its environmental degradation and clean it up. The Montana DEQ declined comment for this story, citing ongoing litigation.

In their 2015 lawsuit, the Harmons asked for $3.5 million for breach of contract and negligence and additional financial penalties for other damages. The Harmons could not be reached for comment through their attorney.

Aside from owning Dual Trucking, Inc., Alford owns an insurance company and has served as president of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District for 20 years. Dove, a Houma Republican, is the outgoing president of Terrebonne Parish and a former member of the state House of Representatives. He also owns Vacco Marine, a specialty military and space parts company that has been repeatedly cited for alleged environmental violations by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. Both of them have made thousands of dollars of contributions to various Landry campaigns over the last several years, according to campaign finance records.

Alford’s spot on the coast and environment transition team is one of several signals to environmentalists throughout Louisiana that Landry’s policies will lead to more pollution and inaction on climate change, Voss said. Another indication of Landry’s stance is his decision this year to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its investigation of how the state regulates oil and gas producers in the river parishes, known as “Cancer Alley” because of their heavy concentration of petrochemical plants.

“It was already clear from the legal challenges he led as Attorney General to prevent the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air and Clean Water acts in Louisiana that he does not believe protecting public health is a good enough reason to demand accountability from business or industry,” Voss said.

There are also concerns about the other transition team members. Landry’s co-chair in the environmental council is Tim Hardy, an attorney who frequently represents petrochemical companies against environmental regulators like the EPA. Landry hasn’t named a single environmental activist or scientist to his coast and environment team. He also recently named Aurelia Skipwith Giacometto, who served in the Trump administration as the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, as his Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

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