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writing for godot

NATURAL GAS WASTE HAULER RAIDED

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Written by Dory Hippauf   
Thursday, 30 May 2013 21:25
Federal and State agents from the IRS, FBI, PA Attorney General’s office and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) raided Minuteman Environmental Services (MES) around 9am on Wednesday (May 29, 2013).

MES is located at the Milton Industrial Park in Milton, PA, and has contracts to haul gas drilling waste. Gov. Tom Corbett visited the Milton facility on Feb. 8, 2012, calling the Minuteman operation an "American success story." On Feb. 28, the Central Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce honored Minuteman with its "Business of the Year" award.

The Lewisburg home of Brian Bolus, Minuteman’s CEO, was also raided.

Bolus donated $10,000 to Corbett’s campaign between 2009-2010. Mike Barley, spokeman for the Corbett campaign said he doesn’t believe there is any reason to give back the donations as it was for an “old” campaign.

Agents were at the plant for more than 9 hours and seen carrying out boxes and boxes of presumably files, documents and other records. Reports also stated agents were combing over every inch of the plant.
Employees trying to get to work were stopped, frisked and vehicles searched. A few employees inside the facility were handcuffed with zip ties. They were told it was for their own protection.

(What’s up with that???? Protection from what and why???)

Meanwhile, outside, workers from the Milton Regional Sewer Authority and agents were seen opening up and inspecting sewers near the MES facility.

None of the involved agencies would comment on why they were there and only said they would be there awhile due to an ongoing investigation. Minuteman Environmental Services also declined to comment.

NOT THE FIRST TIME FOR MES
In 2011, MES was fined $7,000 by DEP for dumping and storing waste without DEP approval at sites in Green Township, Clinton County, and White Deer Township, Union County. DEP stated the facilities held waste from natural gas drilling sites in the Marcellus Shale.

DEP was tipped off by a citizen’s complaint in July 2011. MES received a notice from DEP in August 2011 requiring the removal and proper disposal of the waste.

Ten containers of gas-well drill cutting waste were found at the Green Township site, and 7 at White Deer. Six of the White Deer containers held plastic lines, and one had liquid from a gas well spill.

A pile of waste on the ground was also found in White Deer.

A follow-up inspection in September confirmed that MES had complied.
David Spandoni, DEP Spokesperson, would not comment on whether DEP had the authority to shut down businesses which have these types of violations. Spandoni did say “We have no intention of shutting this [MES] business down.”

According to information on Minuteman’s website, the company is “a participant in good standing” with the PEC Premier Contractor Assistance Program.

"PEC/Premier Safety Management is a Mandeville, La., company that offers training and consulting in complying with safety and environmental regulations. Its Contractor Assistance Program aims to keep companies up to date on safety and industry and regulatory standards.

A call to PEC/Premier for comment was not returned by press time Monday.

The fine was paid to the Solid Waste Abatement Fund, which helps to fund cleanups across the state, the press release said."

SO MANY QUESTIONS
The general assumption as to why the raid is it involves disposal of natural gas waste as suggested by agents and local workers inspecting sewer drains.

It is curious that if this is all there is to the story, why are IRS and FBI agents involved? Why were boxes and boxes of records confiscated, employees frisked, some handcuffed, vehicles searched and Bolus’s home also raided?

Surely, if it was just dumping, DEP could handle slapping MES on the wrist. If it is just about dumping, perhaps on scale large enough to attract Federal attention, where’s the EPA? Wouldn’t they have sent an agent or two along?

What’s the IRS and FBI part in all of this if it is just a case of dumping?

THE DENIAL
Following in the footsteps of its customers, i.e. the natural gas industry, Minuteman Environmental Services denies wrongdoing.
MES issued a statement today, and blamed it on former disgruntled employees.

MES stated there has been no wrong doing and cites the lack of disclosure from the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) office. However when reporters asked OAG about the investigation, a spokesperson did say OAG’s policy is not to comment about an on-going investigation. MES surely knows the details, and could disclose it themselves.

MES claims the investigation is baseless and the company operates honestly.

Statement from Minuteman Environmental Services may 30, 2013:

“For the past eighteen months the Office of the Attorney General has been speaking to former, disgruntled employees of Minuteman Environmental Services, Inc. When we became aware of this activity, we immediately offered, through our attorney, to provide the OAG with any information they wanted. When this offer was not immediately accepted, it was repeated. Both offers were ignored.

Since there has been no wrongdoing, it is not surprising that the OAG’s investigation has disclosed no credible evidence of improper conduct.

Yesterday the OAG conducted simultaneous searches of the home of Brian Bolus, Minuteman’s corporate Headquarters and our branch office in Middletown, PA. The searches were massive; they involved dozens of agents, some in military fatigues, and most carrying weapons.

Karen Bolus, wife of Brian Bolus was handcuffed and placed on the floor next to their eight year old child. At our offices, Minuteman employees were handcuffed ordered out of the building, and forced to sit on the lawn in the heat for at least an hour. A great deal of damage was done to our offices.

However baseless the investigation, however crude the tactics, our company continues to operate as we always have – honestly. We continue to serve our customers and care for our employees. We are deeply grateful for the many expressions of support which we have received from those with whom we do business.”

Considering the Pennsylvania OAG receives more than 50,000 complaints of all types each year there must have been more than a couple former employee complaints. Sorting through and responding to those complaints takes time, as does deciding which complaint(s) require further action and/ or investigation.

How many former employees filed complaints to even start an investigation? How many other former employees filed similar complaints once they became aware the investigation had started? Must have been more than one or two.

MES admits in its statement the investigation has been going on for at least 18 months, which means the investigation initially started in 2011 either under William Ryan (acting AG 1/18/2011-5/27/2011) or Linda Kelly (AG 5/27/2011-1/15/2013). The current AG is Kathryn Kane, elected in November 2012, and officially took office on January 15, 2013.

MES states they attempted to provide information to the OAG on two occasions. When was that and under which AG? At least two, if not all three, AGs were involved in this investigation, and the information they had must have been of a very serious nature to warrant a raid as opposed to receiving information through lawyers.
How serious? Enough for the IRS and FBI to join in on the raid.

MES LETTER TO CUSTOMERS
On its website, MES President, Brian Bolus, posted a letter to its customers. (See: http://www.minutemanspill.com/2091/customer-letter/)
Bolus again blames former employees: “Several months ago I became aware that the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General (OAG) was questioning several former, disgruntled employees of Minuteman Environmental Services.”

The posted customer letter further states, MES hired a former United States Attorney, now engaged in private practice, to represent them. Mighty big guns to handle a simple case of disgruntled former employees wouldn’t you say?

At the end of the first paragraph, Bolus switches gears from “disgruntled former employees” to the question of waste disposal.
“This material enables us to completely document that we have handled all of your waste professionally and in conformity with state and federal laws and regulations. Anyone taking the time to review this material can be assured of the integrity of our business practices.”
Obviously, the boxes and boxes of material removed during the raid will be reviewed thoroughly by state and federal agents.

Raiding a business on this scale is not something any federal or state agency does lightly. No elected or appointed government official wakes up one morning and on a whim says “Hey gang, let’s have a raid today.”

©2013 by Dory Hippauf
 

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