Goodwin

CHARLESTON -- Lawyers for Bayer CropScience have told a federal judge that the company's Institute plant is safe and that its methyl isocyanate unit should be allowed to resume production.

On Friday, the lawyers gave U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin copies of two reports by a Bayer consultant who, they said, concluded the unit met federal requirements, the Charleston Gazette reported.

However, the same day, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board wrote to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, advising them to conduct more thorough inspections of the unit before it is restarted, the Gazette reported.

According to the Gazette, the board's chairman warned in the letters that records in the lawsuit indicated the company hadn't completed a number of safety precautions.

But two reports by Donald Lorenzo, an engineer with ABSG Consulting, show the company has fully complied with both OSHA and the EPA's safety and start-up requirements, the newspaper reported.

On Feb. 10, Goodwin issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Bayer from making the MIC chemical.

Goodwin issued his three-page order at the request of the 16 residents, some of whom live near the Institute Industrial Park.

In it, he wrote, "Given the limited record, including limited evidence of the defendant's history of safety violations, misrepresentations to the public, and multiple accidents and chemical leaks, and in light of the fact that the court has not had the opportunity to conduct a preliminary injunction evidentiary hearing, I FIND that the plaintiffs are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of this temporary relief."

Bayer stopped production after the 2008 explosion at the plant. However, it was expected to start back up last week.

MIC, one of the chemicals manufactured at the plant, also was involved in a 1984 leak from a former Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. The leak killed thousands and sickened even more.

Goodwin's original order expires in 14 days. However, on Feb. 14, the plaintiffs filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction, stopping production for longer. A hearing on the motion has been set for Friday.

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