Enviro firm sues HeidelbergCement

Enviro firm sues HeidelbergCement
Published: 10 January 2005

A small, Pasadena-based firm is suing HeidelbergCement Group, claiming the company commissioned complex environmental cleanup plans that it never paid for. Heidelberger hired the firm solely to appease environmental regulators, the suit alleges. The civil suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Maryland, seeks $290m in compensatory damages and $1bn in punitive damages. It alleges fraud and breach of contract.

Eastern Materials Inc. says it was hired in 1999 to develop plans to remove, and to carry out the removal, of 20Mt of environmentally sensitive materials from a plant in Woodsboro. The plant is owned by Lehigh Cement Company, an Allentown subsidiary of Germany-based HeidelbergCement. The material included kiln dust.

Eastern also was hired to handle the waste from plants in Union Bridge; Waco; Mitchell and Mason City, the suit alleges. But instead of allowing Eastern to do the work, Heidelberger reneged on the contracts and used Eastern’s cleanup plans to do the work itself, Eastern claims.

Jeff Brozyna, senior vice president and general counsel of Lehigh Cement, called the allegations "completely groundless" and said the company is "prepared to demonstrate that in court for as long as it takes." "As far as our environmental compliance at our plants, we take our responsibility very seriously. We know how to comply with the law, and we comply with the law," Brozyna said.

The suit claims Eastern was hired "for the purpose" of showing the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Maryland Department of the Environment, which were scrutinising Lehigh’s plants, that a cleanup plan was in place. Eastern’s plans also helped "facilitate a smooth approval" for Lehigh to expand its plant in Union Bridge.

"This is by far the largest contract Eastern had ever entered into," said Jeff Pritzker, a Towson attorney who filed the suit for Eastern. "Substantial resources were spent developing the processes and procedures for the removal of this material."