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Honeywell Environmental Settlement Questioned

Arizona Corporation Commissioner questioning legality of a hazardous-waste settlement that included a $5 million fine and $1 million for an air-quality cleanup project.

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce is questioning the legality of a hazardous-waste settlement with Honeywell International Inc. that included a $5 million fine and a $1 million contribution to an air-quality cleanup project.

In a letter sent Thursday to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and the Arizona Attorney General's Office, Pierce suggested that state officials inappropriately directed $1 million of the settlement to the Western Governors Association.

Last week's settlement, which still must be approved by the courts, states that the money will be earmarked for the governors' use as part of the Western Climate Initiative efforts to develop regional strategies for addressing climate change.

Pierce wrote that by choosing to fund the WCI, the attorney general and ADEQ have redirected $1 million that could have benefited the local community -- in this case south Phoenix that was affected by Honeywell's alleged violations.

His letter urges ADEQ Director Steve Owens and Attorney General Terry Goddard to reconsider the allocation and to develop a new environmental project in conjunction with Honeywell that would directly benefit anyone who lives or works in the vicinity of Honeywell's facility north of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

The Attorney General's Office declined to comment on the letter and referred calls to Owens, who called Pierce's letter misguided and unfortunate and said his agency has broad discretion to approve such projects.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by the state against Honeywell in July 2004 alleging a number of environmental violations spanning more than 30 years.

The lawsuit alleged that between 1974 and 2004, Honeywell violated numerous environmental laws, including the Arizona Water Quality Control Act, Arizona Hazardous Waste Disposal Act and Arizona Underground Storage Tank Act.

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