PHOENIX (December 19, 2012) -- Concern that the necessary environmental cleanup of a now-shuttered eastern Arizona paper mill would not occur has been avoided by a determined legal effort by the Attorney General’s office, Navajo County officials, the state Department of Environmental Quality, and the Arizona State Land Commissioner, Attorney General Tom Horne announced today.
The cleanup was threatened when the mill’s owner, Catalyst Paper Corporation of Canada, closed the Catalyst Paper Mill in Navajo County, laid off workers and appeared ready to abandon the site without fulfilling its obligations to remediate the mill’s environmental impact as the company entered bankruptcy court proceedings.
“Arizona welcomes capital investment and jobs from businesses from all over the world, but these businesses also must honor their commitments, including agreements to ensure environmental compliance, when they depart our state,” Horne said. “My office will be vigilant in protecting Arizona tax payers from any entity that attempts to avoid any of its corporate responsibilities. I am extremely proud of my staff; they moved expeditiously to coordinate among our state agencies, the Department of Justice and Navajo County Officials to get this job done."
Joining the Attorney General in the legal effort were Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon, Navajo County Supervisor David Tenney, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Arizona State Land Department, which has valuable land leases in the area.
Carlyon praised the Attorney General, "We applaud the quick work of the Attorney General in this complex, international Bankruptcy Case. AG Horne moved expeditiously to respond to our concerns at the site. We were concerned because Catalyst Paper, in short order, closed the plant, refused to sell to another paper company, laid-off about 300 workers and appeared ready to abandon the site with no environmental safeguards in case contamination at the site is found in the future.”
Supervisor David Tenney applauded the quick action by the State Officials saying, "Catalyst was apparently selling the site for scrap and had no plans to manufacture any product at the long-standing paper mill facility. The speed at which Catalyst was moving to sell its assets in Bankruptcy court gave us concern in Navajo County that the site may need environmental attention in the future, and our citizens should not have to bear that cost." “We look forward to working with the new owners to develop the site into an industrial center that offers our citizens employment and a powerhouse platform for economic development.”
In last minute negotiations over the last several days, the Catalyst Paper Corporation agreed to provisions in the Court Order to ensure that nothing in the bankruptcy proceeding relieves the Catalyst Paper Corporation of "any environmental liability to any person."
The proposed court order also provides that third parties, like adjoining landowners, nearby cities, Navajo County and the State of Arizona, maintain their right to pursue Catalyst Paper for any environmental damage found in the future. The order specifically states: "Nothing in the Agreement affects the rights of any persons who are not a signatory to the Agreement. Only Catalyst Paper as the seller and an unknown buyer are signatories to the Agreement."