A separate Chemical Safety Board probe found that the explosion and fire could have damaged a nearby tank of methyl isocyanate, and caused a disaster that would have rivaled the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India. After those findings were made public, Bayer announced it was cutting its MIC inventory -- long a sticking point with local residents and activists -- by roughly 80 percent.
But board members nearly dropped their investigation and the idea of a public meeting in Institute when Bayer tried to use an obscure Homeland Security rule to keep important information about the August explosion from being released. Pressure from local political leaders, including Carper, convinced the board to go ahead with its work.
But in the last few months, board members -- and especially outgoing chairman John Bresland -- complained repeatedly about their agency's workload after a number of high-profile industrial accidents. Board members only agreed to investigate the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico after practically being ordered to do so by Congress.
By law, the board is required to investigate chemical industry accidents "resulting in a fatality, serious injury or substantial property damage."
Board members said that taking on the BP probe they would have to end some other investigations, but agency spokesman Daniel Horowitz said board members did not anticipate the Bayer explosion being one of those.
Board officials did not immediately respond Thursday to requests for comment on Carper's letter.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.