Environmental Cleanup Shapes Up as Growth Industry

Article excerpt

The environmental movement is attracting new followers these days from what some people might consider an unlikely place - Wall Street.

Since it began to gather momentum more than two decades ago, the drive for cleaner air, land and water around the world often has seemed at odds with the cause of economic expansion.

Now, in at least one noteworthy case, the interests of the two camps appear to be converging. If a good many stock market analysts are right, the business of environmental cleanup and pollution control is shaping up as a growth industry, in its own right, for the 1990s.

For evidence of that you need look no further than the stock market, where shares of companies such as Waste Management Inc. and Browning-Ferris Industries, the nation's two largest wate-disposal concerns, climbed last week to record highs.

Waste Management, at around $58, was up more than $6 from where it stood at the end of June and had more than doubled in price since late 1987.

Browning-Ferris, which climbed to near $39 from $33.25 at midyear, also traded at double its levels of less than two years ago.

Brokers said demand for those issues was swollen by buy orders from organizers of a new investment company that was assembling a portfolio of stocks in the environmental-services business.

But there were other driving forces as well. When leaders of the seven major industrialized nations issued a communique at the end of their economic summit meeting in Paris earlier this month, they devoted one-third of the document to environmental issues.

William Reilly, administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, called that ``a major milestone.''

In the United States, President Bush also has proposed intensified measures to deal with such problems as acid rain.

While there is no mistaking the momentum it has gathered, however, analysts say investors who want to ride the environmental wave face some significant hazards and uncertainties. …