UPDATE: More Than 160 Bayer CropScience Workers to be Laid Off in Institute

By: Brooks Jarosz, The Associated Press, Jeremy Edwards, Michael Hyland Email
By: Brooks Jarosz, The Associated Press, Jeremy Edwards, Michael Hyland Email

UPDATE 7/9/11 @ 10:35 p.m.
INSTITUTE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Although workers were warned months ago, the harsh reality set in Monday that more than 160 Bayer CropScience workers would lose their jobs.

The company issued an official notice on Monday.

Bayer first announced the cuts about a year ago when it decided to close the MIC unit.

The first phase of the layoffs will begin in September and continue through the rest of the year.



UPDATE 3/18/11 @ 10:30 p.m.
INSTITUTE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Bayer CropScience will not go forward with a plan to restart methyl isocyanate production at its plant, company managers announced Friday.

MIC is a toxic chemical that’s used in the process of developing Temik, an insecticide.

Bayer managers announced in January they planned to phase out production of MIC by the middle of next year. The move meant 220 jobs would be cut at the plant, in addition to 80 jobs at the company’s Woodbine, Ga. facility.

As a result of Friday’s announcement, company managers say the job cuts will happen sooner. However, the say the timeline is uncertain.

"The temporary restraining order that was put in place by the court was part of the overall picture that we're looking at with regards to timing of restart as well as being able to meet the needs of our customers," says Steve Hedrick, Bayer CropScience vice president.

The facility is in the midst of a government inspection by OSHA.

At the same time, a group of concerned citizens recently filed a lawsuit aimed at getting the company to stop producing MIC. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order while the issue was studied.

The company says ultimately, the timing of restarting production would not work out, as production couldn’t “be expected in time for the 2011 growing season.

"There are other issues to be resolved. But, we're satisfied that the Kanawha Valley is a safer community to live in tonight than it was yesterday," says William DePaulo, the attorney representing the concerned citizens.

Maya Nye, who is with the group People Concerned About MIC and a plaintiff in the case, says she is glad the company has come to the decision that it has but is still concerned about the economic impact.

“My father worked for Union Carbide, so I understand that very clearly. And, I never want anyone to lose a job. But, I also want to be safe," says Nye.

But others feel the fear of MIC is overblown.

That led many of them to rally last week to show their support of Bayer and the jobs at stake.

"What chemical is next? Now we're not going to make MIC. Now we're going to find another chemical, and we'll keep right on until that plant is closed like the other plants in this valley," says Brenda Tyler, who organized last week’s rally.

Plant managers say they're going to start the decommissioning process next week. They say it will take at least six months.

But it won't be until they have the plan in place that they'll know just how soon the 220 jobs will be cut.



UPDATE 3/18/11 @ 11:30 p.m.
INSTITUTE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Bayer CropScience has announced they are not re-starting the methyl isocyanate unit at their plant in Institute.

Company officials say as a result of this decision, they will immediately move forward with decommissioning the reconfigured MIC and associated production units

Bayer had planned to re-start the unit, but company officials say uncertainty over delays has led the company to the conclusion that a restart of production can no longer be expected in time for when the product would be needed.

There is currently a temporary restraining order, barring Bayer CropScience from producing MIC.

The restraining order was issued after a lawsuit was filed by area residents and others who fear an accidental release of the chemical.

Keep clicking WSAZ.com for more updates



UPDATE 3/5/11 @ 2:45 p.m.
INSTITUTE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Federal safety inspectors are checking out the Bayer CropScience Plant in Institute, West Virginia once again.

Today, the plant's spokesperson said, "We welcome OSHA to the facility and will fully cooperate with them in their inspection."

Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper said the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration will routinely check in with facilities like Bayer, and the fact that they're in town is a good thing.

The Charleston Gazette reports that the team will take a closer look at the plant's newly designed production unit for methyl isocyanate, also known as MIC. That same toxic chemical killed thousands in India in 1984.

A federal judge has extended an order temporarily barring Bayer CropScience from producing methyl isocyanate. U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin appointed a chemical engineering expert to assess safety at the plant.



UPDATE 2/23/11 @ 10 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A federal judge has extended an order temporarily barring Bayer CropScience from using a West Virginia plant to produce the same toxic chemical that killed thousands in India in 1984.

Besides the extension until March 28, U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin on Wednesday appointed a chemical engineering professor from Texas to assess safety at Bayer CropScience's Institute plant.

Texas A&M professor Sam Mannan also has until March 14 to assess the chances of a catastrophe involving methyl isocyanate at the plant.

Bayer CropScience had planned to resume producing the chemical, typically called MIC, before residents filed suit this month. A 1984 MIC leak at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, killed thousands.

Bayer CropScience says it welcomes the rulings.



UPDATE 2/14/11 @ 11:37 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A federal judge says Bayer CropScience can conduct activities related to reconfiguring the methyl isocyanate unit at its Institute plant, as long as the highly toxic chemical isn't produced or manufactured.

U.S. District Judge Robert R. Goodwin issued a temporary restraining order last week barring MIC's production or manufacture at the plant. The order came in a lawsuit filed by residents and others who fear an accidental release of the chemical. A 1984 MIC leak at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, killed thousands.

The Associated Press reports that Goodwin clarified the order Sunday in response to a motion filed by Bayer seeking permission to conduct activities such as completing installation and testing of safety equipment.



UPDATE 2/11/11 @ 4:55 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Lawyers say Bayer CropScience continued making a highly toxic chemical at the center of a federal lawsuit at its Institute plant until last August.

Thomas Hurney Jr. made the comment Friday during a procedural hearing on a lawsuit that seeks tighter controls on the chemical methyl isocyanate.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin temporarily barred Bayer CropScience from resuming production of the chemical at its Institute plant for 14 days.

The lawsuit was filed by area residents and others who fear an accidental release of the chemical.

A 1984 accident at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, killed thousands.



UPDATE 2/10/11 @ 6:40 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A federal judge has barred Bayer CropScience in Institute from restarting their MIC production after issuing a temporary restraining order.

The order was issued Thursday afternoon.

Judge Joesph Goodwin heard both sides and decided the risks associated with MIC production puts the public in danger based on Bayer's track record.

The restraining order will delay the restart of the MIC unit for 14 days.

Judge Goodwin wants to see a comprehensive report on the MIC unit's history.

This comes after 16 residents filed a lawsuit, worried about the potential effects a chemical leak, explosion or fire could have on the community.

"I think he fairly considered both sides arguments and the scheduling for the preliminary injunction I think is a responsible one," Attorney William V. DePaulo said. "He's forcing us to go forward diligently and we look forward to developing the kind of record the court will need to enter a preliminary injunction."

Bayer defended itself, because the Department of Environmental Protection gave them a permit to restart MIC production, but admitted no federal inspections had been done at the plant.

Bayer CropScience says it is disappointed with the court's decision to discontinue the startup and issued a statement saying, "We believe such an action is not warranted and could have an immediate and adverse impact to our site and to the farmers who depend on our products to help produce crops important to American agriculture. We will review our options in response to the court's ruling."

Both sides will present evidence to the judge before the end of the month.

Judge Goodwin will decide whether or not to issue a preliminary injunction.



UPDATE 2/10/11 @ 3:40 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A federal judge has granted a restraining order that will temporarily stop Bayer CropScience in Institute from restarting their MIC production.

The order was issued Thursday afternoon.

Judge Joesph Goodwin heard both sides and decided the risks associated with MIC production puts the public in danger based on Bayer's track record.

The restraining order will delay the restart of the MIC unit for 14 days.

Judge Goodwin wants to see a comprehensive report on the MIC unit's history.

Bayer defended itself, because the Department of Experimental Protection gave them a permit to restart MIC production, but admitted no federal inspections had been done at the plant.

Keep clicking WSAZ.com for more updates.



Bayer CropScience has released the following statement in response to today's ruling:

Bayer CropScience is disappointed with the court’s decision today to enforce a temporary restraining order to discontinue the startup of the methyl isocyanate unit at our Institute Industrial Park. We believe such an action is not warranted and could have an immediate and adverse impact to our site and to the farmers who depend on our products to help produce crops important to American agriculture. We will review our options in response to the court's ruling.



UPDATE 2/9/11 @ 6:50 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A deadly chemical, a downsizing plant and a restricting lawsuit have things heating up between Bayer Crop Science in Institute and neighbors who live near the plant.

More than a dozen area residents and their lawyer want to see the production of the chemical MIC stop for good.

Bayer announced it would stop production of MIC in August 2010 to allow for construction.

Bayer says it planned reduce the inventory of MIC going forward, and would restart production for the next 18 months.

That's worried some residents, and their lawyer says in the worst case scenario, the vulnerability zone includes more than 300,000 people in a 25-mile radius.

"What they (Bayer) are really saying here is we want to squeeze the last few bucks out of this business over the next 18 months, whether or not the chemical safety board recommendations have been implemented," Attorney William DePaulo said. "They're not waiting to see what the National Academy of Sciences says about the inherent risk associated with the manufacturing of this product."

Sixteen neighbors want to bar the company from restarting by filing a restraining order.

All of them remember a deadly explosion in 2008 at the Institute plant that killed two workers and injured eight others.

Bayer admitted to mistakes found by the CSB, but says it's invested $25 million in new production, safety and communications equipment.

Bayer spokesperson Tom Dover says the company has reduced storage by 80 percent and eliminated above-ground tanks.

"The employees responsible for this operation have undergone extensive safety training associated with these operations," Dover said. "We are fully dedicated to a safe startup of these operations and remain confident that we will meet our own high expectations, as well as those of our neighbors and community."

Not everyone's convinced, especially after learning the danger zone covers an area from Buffalo to East Bank and Hurricane to Clendenin.

"You cannot reasonably place 300,000 people at risk for exposure to MIC," Depaulo said. "Not with a record such as Bayer, which includes not merely the incident on August 28, but a long, long history of repeated violations."

Now the chemical's fate and the communities future is in the hands of a judge.

Bayer says it's reviewing the court filings.

The case has been assigned to Judge Goodwin in the U.S. District Court, and residents are hoping to have their case heard later this week.

The restraining order would block Bayer from resuming production until inspections are done by the U.S. Chemical Board and other agencies.



ORIGINAL STORY
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A group of Kanawha Valley residents and workers is suing Bayer CropScience over plans to resume using the highly toxic chemical methyl isocyanate at its Institute plant.

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Charleston seeks an order barring Bayer from using or producing the chemical until several conditions are met. The plaintiffs say more than 300,000 people are in danger if the chemical is released.

The lawsuit compares a deadly August 2008 explosion near a tank of the chemical with the leak that killed thousands of people in Bhopal, India in 1984. Two workers died as a result of the Institute blast, but no methyl isocyanate escaped.

Bayer announced in January it would resume using the chemical until stores are exhausted.

The company had no immediate response to the lawsuit.


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