CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Lawyers for Bayer CropScience are trying to convince a federal judge the company's Institute plant is safe, even as a federal agency that investigated the facility continues to call for more inspections before Bayer's controversial methyl isocyanate unit is allowed to resume production.
Bayer lawyers have provided U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin with copies of two reports by a company consultant they said concluded the MIC unit met requirements of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
But on Friday -- the same day Bayer provided those reports to Goodwin -- the U.S. Chemical Safety Board wrote to OSHA and EPA to repeat its recommendations that both agencies conduct comprehensive, plant-wide inspections before the MIC unit is restarted.
Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso warned in separate letters to OSHA Director David Michaels and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson that records in the lawsuit indicate Bayer has not yet completed a variety of important safety precautions.
CSB investigators found that poor start-up procedures on Bayer's Methomyl-Larvin unit led to an August 2008 explosion that killed two workers, Moure-Eraso wrote, and the board is concerned "that a similar pattern is being followed prior to the startup of the MIC unit."
Moure-Eraso pointed to a Feb. 12 "emergency motion" filed by Bayer in which the company said it had not finished writing new standard operating procedures or training employees following a complete redesign and rebuild of the MIC unit. Moure-Eraso said he did not see how Bayer "could possibly have completed" these required safety steps prior to its planned date for restarting the MIC unit.
In responding to Bayer's motion, Goodwin said that he found it "remarkable" that Bayer "has yet to complete a wide variety of safety measure," just a week before its planned restart of the MIC unit.
On Feb. 10, Goodwin had granted a request from 16 Kanawha Valley residents that he temporarily block Bayer from resuming production of MIC until they could get a full hearing on a lawsuit to stop the company from reopening its MIC unit. Goodwin has scheduled a hearing for Friday to hear testimony and legal arguments on whether he should grant a longer-term injunction.
In its new court filings, Bayer provided Goodwin with two reports from Donald Lorenzo, an engineer with the consulting firm ABSG Consulting. Bayer lawyers said the documents showed the company "has complied fully with OSHA and EPA's process safety and start-up requirements."