The Department of Labor’s Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance published a notice in today’s Federal Register (77 FR 21587-21588) amending their Certification of Eligibility to Apply for Worker Adjustment Assistance for workers at the Bayer CropScience facility in Institute, WV. This amendment adds Professional Maintenance of Charleston (PMOC) to the list of companies that are covered by the original certification that was published in the Federal Register on February 21, 2012 (77 FR 9971).
While the notice states that the eligibility is justified “by increased company imports of pesticides”, the reason behind most of those increased imports is almost certainly the closure of the methyl isocyanate unit at the facility that was used to manufacture the precursor to a number of those pesticides. That unit was closed by the company because of the pressure applied to the company as a result of the Chemical Safety Board’s investigation of the fatal August 2008 explosion in that unit. This was the culmination of efforts by a variety of local and national environmental organizations which were finally supported by West Virginia’s Congressional delegation after the preliminary results of the CSB investigation were made public.
While the neighbors of the Institute, WV facility might feel safer in the absence of the MIC unit’s hazards, it is clear that there was a cost to be paid. An outsider cannot truly evaluate the ‘cost-benefit analysis’ that those residents living have been living through since the decision to close that plant was made, but it is something that should be quantified and evaluated as the pressure continues to mount on the Federal government to impose inherently safer technology standards of facilities that use, make, or store toxic inhalation hazard chemicals.