Republic Services hides its dirty business by incorporating in Delaware, a state notorious for shielding corporations from public scrutiny.
Republic Services, the nation’s second largest waste disposal company, is headquartered in Phoenix, but its troublesome subsidiary — Bridgeton Landfill LLC — is incorporated more than 2,300 miles away in Delaware, a state known for its favorable corporate climate.
Bridgeton Landfill is a member of the club that calls 1209 North Orange Street home. It’s a place where corporations behave like secret societies; companies flock to evade accountability; and the cloaking of free enterprise is accepted as standard business practice.
The same address in Wilmington, Delaware, the state capital, is home to more than 285,000 corporations, including some of the largest in the U.S. and the world. The beige brick building with the red awning at 1209 North Orange Street is the business address for American Airlines, Bank of America, Apple, Google, J.P. Morgan Chase, Wal-Mart, Berkshire Hathaway, Coca-Cola and Ford, among others.
The nondescript office on North Orange is also the mailing address for less scrupulous corporations allegedly engaged in illegal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking and embezzlement. Investigative reporters for the Panama Papers organization and the Organized Crime and Corruption and Reporting Project have followed trails that dead-end at 1209 North Orange. Delaware secrecy laws make it nearly impossible to get a clear picture of companies that register in the state. Delaware’s lax corporate regulatory environment are comparable to off-shore tax havens such as Bermuda, the Bahamas and Cayman Islands, where Republic also has connections.
Because of the favorable business environment, Delaware currently has more corporations than people. Most of the companies operate legitimately and use the state to legally skirt taxes and avoid bothersome regulations.
In recent years, the U.S. Justice Department and World Bank have both expressed concerns over the situation and criticized the state for its laissez faire policies.
Bridgeton Landfill is most noted for its so-called “subsurface smoldering event,” an underground fire that has been burning since 2010 toward radioactive waste dumped at the site illegally more than 40 years ago. Republic Services, the owner of the site, has been fighting efforts for years by community members to remove the waste, which is located in a floodplain in North St. Louis County, approximately one mile from the Missouri River.
Last year, the EPA belatedly acknowledged that the radioactive contamination is seeping into the groundwater. Many residents believe the contamination is the cause of long-term health problems and deaths due to chronic exposure. Republic and its supporters reject these assertions and are backing a plan to bury the toxic waste at its present location. The EPA delayed making its final decision late last year, leaving the long-standing problem unresolved.
Avoiding legal liability is another advantage to setting up shop in Delaware. Republic can breath easier there, while nearby residents in North St. Louis County continue to gasp for air because of the stench waifing from Republic’s toxic dump.