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Pallone, 8 Colleagues File Amicus Brief in Support of Victims of Bhopal Disaster

October 17, 2003
Press Release

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), co-founder of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, joined eight of his colleagues earlier this week in filing an amicus brief on behalf of the more than 20,000 victims of the 1984 Union Carbide chemical disaster in Bhopal, India.

In the 23-page brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the New Jersey Congressman and his colleagues urge the court to hold DOW Chemical responsible for the environmental disaster. The brief, initiated by Pallone, comes in response to a March decision by a U.S. District Judge in New York dismissing all claims against the company. Victims then appealed that decision to the Second Circuit.

"There is strong support in Congress for holding those responsible for this horrific tragedy accountable for their actions," Pallone said. "It is unacceptable to allow an American company not only the opportunity to exploit international borders and legal jurisdictions but also the ability to evade civil and criminal liability for environmental pollution and abuses committed overseas."

Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide Corporation in February 2001 and has yet to accept responsibility or to address the liabilities it inherited from the1984 Bhopal disaster. Over the last 19 years, victims have filed numerous lawsuits against the company in an attempt to address health concerns and the tremendous environmental injustices that resulted from the disaster, but to date their claims have remained unanswered.

"The polluter pays principle has been affirmed by both international law and American common law and the appropriate means for addressing pollution or environmental harm regardless of where it occurs," the members write in the brief. "That principle cannot be ignored simply because the polluter has abandoned its facility, sold its shares in a subsidy or otherwise effected change of ownership.

"Union Carbide cannot express shock and dismay at being criminally charged for its alleged role in a tragedy that killed thousands and injured hundreds of thousands," the members continue in their brief. "To deny equitable relief on these grounds would, in itself, be inequitable."

In July, Pallone and 17 of his colleagues wrote a letter to Dow Chemical requesting that Dow take responsibility for the accident and immediately take steps toward reparations for the victims. Dows President and CEO William Stavropoulos responded to the letter in August by stating that Union Carbide resolved the issue over a decade ago and that Dow "inherited no responsibility." Stavropoulos vowed to protect the interests of the companys shareholders, employees and retirees against such actions.

On December 2, 1984 a Union Carbide plant leaked 40 tons of lethal gas in Bhopal, India, killing 4,000 people within hours and injuring more than 20,000.  Since then, the death count has risen to well over 14,000 as a result of exposure to the gas.  According to victims rights groups, over 150,000 are suffering from the after effects, such as reproductive complications, loss of ability to perform physical labor, rare cancers and severe respiratory problems.  Residents of Bhopal are still faced with polluted groundwater, toxic waste and contaminated soil and their concerns have yet to be addressed.

The eight members joining Pallone on the amicus brief were: Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Eni F. Faleomavaega (D-AS), Fortney Pete Stark (D-CA), and Janice Schakowsky (D-IL).