Environmental Problems Fuel New Industry but Cleanup Has Own Headaches
Robert Sanford Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
This year more than 2,000 Missouri businesses will be required to file for permits to operate in compliance with state and federal clean air rules.
The simplest sort of permit - called a Basic permit in the rules - could be relatively easy to obtain, but the red tape can become uncomfortable for businesses requiring a more complicated permit - called a Major permit.
Richard Waters, an environmental lawyer with Armstrong, Teasdale, Schlafly & Davis, trecalls a case that generated a 3-inch stack of documents. An outside consultant took 800 hours to prepare the stack and an employee matched that time. And some stacks grow two or three times as high, Waters said.
The need for all that paper - and for operating solutions to environmental programs - has spawned an entire industry. The St. Louis Yellow Pages lists more than 100 companies under environmental and ecological services, including engineers, consultants, laboratories, asbestos removers, waste-management firms, real-estate appraisers and recycling programs. They also include two big St. Louis companies, Monsanto Co. and Sverdrup Corp.
Monsanto Enviro-Chem estimates its annual revenue at more than $150 million. Sverdrup Environmental does $50 million of business a year, and wants to push that to $100 million in two years.
"A general estimate puts the national market at $100 billion," said Michael Neumann, a vice president at Sverdrup. "One hundred billion is a boom figure. But for some it's a bust market.
"It's tricky. A company that we worked with on the Times Beach project changed its name three times in 18 months. It was acquired again and again. You weren't quite sure what its name was."
Anthony G. Corey, vice president for products and environmental systems at Monsanto, described the industry as huge and highly fragmented. He said a new company might succeed if it found a niche and performed well. "But you have to be good at what you do," he said.
The immediate future of environmental projects seems to rest with the new Congress. If Congress cuts programs deeply it will carry the stigma of being "anti-environment." The issue could be a hot political topic playing Congress against the Clinton administration, which has taken a pro-environment stance.
But some cuts would not be fatal, Alan L. Farkas, an industry consultant, told participants at a recent Washington conference. He said that the $3 billion water quality market had grown 5 percent in 1994, the best increase in four years. If the budgets of the departments of Energy Defense are cut 10 percent to 15 percent in the next two years, there still will be a strong market for environmental constructors, he said.
Consultants will face tougher prospects. Action in the market is shifting from identifying polluted sites to cleaning them up, Farkas said. …