Be careful who you make angry-- Sen. Rockefeller responds to Bayer CropScience Testimony

June 22, 2009

According to Chemical Facility Safety News, a blog by P. J. Coyle, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has reacted to the unabashed admission by Bayer CropScience CEO William Buckner that Bayer CropScience attempted to quash the Chemical Safety Board investigation of the August 2008 explosion at his Institute, WV facility by using a claim of "Sensitive Security Information" under the Homeland Security provisions of the Maritime Transportation Security Act. Buckner admitted in his testimony before a House Subcommittee earlier this year that the reason Bayer Cropscience took this measure was out of fear of repercussions and adverse publicity.

This was the first time a chemical facility had attempted to use homeland security as a means to cover up inexcusable poor safety and security practices, and deny culpability for the deaths of two employees.

Since Buckner's testimony, the heat has been on West Virginia legislators to close the loophole in the MTSA that Bayer CropScience attempted to exploit.

P. J. Coyle reports:

S 1274 Status 06-19-09

A copy of Sen. Rockefeller’s bill, S 1274 to stop MTSA facilities from hiding safety information behind Sensitive Security Information (SSI) protections has finally been posted on the GPO web site (access through It is actually a very short bill and I am not sure how effective it will actually be in preventing actions like Bayer CropScience took earlier this year.

The key provision of the bill is the amendment of §70103(d) of title 46 USC adding subparagraph (2):

“LIMITATIONS.—Nothing in paragraph (1) shall be construed to authorize the classification of information as sensitive security information (as defined in section 1520.5 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations)—
‘‘(A) to conceal a violation of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;
‘‘(B) to prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;
‘‘(C) to restrain competition; or
‘‘(D) to prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of transportation security, including basic scientific research information not clearly related to transportation security.’’

Coyle goes on to say that he isn't sure if this legislation will pass, or will plug the loophole. I am wondering why we haven't seen indictments of Buckner, the plant manager, the shift supervisor and the other persons in responsible charge of the plant at the time of the event.

Seems to me that we might need to make clear to plant ownership and management that safety and security and good work practices are simply not optional.

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