Plaintiffs in the suit include Maya Nye of the group People Concerned About MIC, longtime local activist the Rev. Jim Lewis, artist Paula Clendenin and author Denise Giardina. Clendenin and Giardina are both on the faculty at West Virginia State University, located adjacent to the plant. Other plaintiffs included longtime Institute residents Sue Davis, Warne Ferguson and Mildred Holt, and West Virginia State student Lisa Bragg.
The suit cited the recent findings of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which conducted a detailed investigation after two Institute plant workers died in an August 2008 explosion and fire in a unit that stores and uses MIC.
CSB investigators and a congressional committee found that the explosion and fire could have damaged an MIC tank located about 70 feet away, causing a disaster that would have rivaled Bhopal.
A year after the explosion and fire, Bayer announced it was reducing its MIC inventory by 80 percent. Last month, the company said it was doing away with MIC altogether, as part of a corporate restructuring that would end production of the pesticide aldicarb, which was made at Institute with MIC. But the company said it planned to restart the MIC unit, with the smaller inventory, and continue making aldicarb until June 2012.
The suit seeks to stop Bayer from restarting the MIC unit before a long list of conditions is met including:
-- Completion of a National Academy of Sciences study of the safety of making and storing large amounts of a chemical as dangerous as MIC near a major population center.
-- The state and county create a new chemical accident prevention program proposed by the Chemical Safety Board.
-- Local emergency planners enact all of the recommendations in the CSB report for improving their handling of toxic chemical accidents.
-- EPA and OSHA both conduct comprehensive safety inspections of the entire Bayer facility.
Along with their lawsuit, the residents filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining order to block Bayer from restarting the MIC unit.