AUSTIN, Texas-The Texas Environmental Enforcement Task Force has executed a sealed search warrant and is continuing a criminal investigation at the Safe Tire Disposal Corp. facility in Cleveland, Texas. The regulatory task force, headed by the U.S. Department of Justice, is attempting to determine whether the recycling facility has made accurate claims for tire shredding reimbursements from the state, according to a spokesman from the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, a member of the task force.
``The TNRCC takes this action because we have credible evidence that Safe Tire Disposal Corp.'s claims for reimbursement are not accurate, and because of our duty to protect against wrongful payments out of the (state) fund,'' stated a letter from Kenneth Ramirez, deputy executive director of the commission's office of legal and regulatory service, sent to Safe Tire President Scott Holden.
The commission notified Safe Tire that it would not receive any more money until the investigation and audit were completed.
Safe Tire, which also has Texas facilities in Midlothian, Odessa and San Antonio, has received $13.4 million from the program, including $4.3 million at the Cleveland site alone.
No charges have been filed against the company, according to the spokesman. ``Safe Tire has not been charged, and it's important to remember that this is just a formal inquiry,'' he said. ``I think its fair to say, we're wondering whether or not the state is getting what it paid for.''
Mr. Holden did not return telephone calls.
Under the recycling fund program, qualified companies are paid to shred waste tires from a state fund, which generates fees on new tire sales.
In addition to the Cleveland facility investigation, the TNRCC will begin auditing all 23 registered tire shredding operations in the state to determine compliance with the state's recycling program, which has provided the companies more than $46 million since its inception in April 1992.
Task force members participating in the investigation include the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal investigation division, FBI, Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Department of Agriculture. The task force was created in 1991 by Gov. Ann Richards.