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Pallone Renews Call for Dow Chemical to Take Responsibility for Bhopal Disaster

January 10, 2004
Press Release

New Delhi, India--- Nearly 20 years after the Union Carbide Corporation plant in Bhopal leaked 40 tons of lethal gas killing 4,000 people and injuring more than 20,000, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. today called on Dow Chemical to finally accept responsibility and address the extreme environmental and health problems that still exist. Pallone was scheduled to tour the grounds of the disaster today and meet with victims, but unfortunately had to postpone the trip. The New Jersey congressman vowed to come to Bhopal on a future trip.

"Its outrageous that we will soon mark the 20th Anniversary of this tragic event and Dow Chemical has still not stepped forward to take full responsibility for the actions of Union Carbide," Pallone said. "I want the people of Bhopal to know they have the strong support of me and more than a dozen of my colleagues in the U.S. Congress. 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."

Last October, Pallone joined eight of his colleagues in filing an amicus brief on behalf of the more than 20,000 victims of the chemical disaster. In the 23-page brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the lawmakers 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.

"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."

Last 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. Pallone and his colleagues specifically requested the companys Chairman and CEO William Stavropoulos take the following action: 1) ensure the appearance of a Union Carbide representative at the ongoing criminal case in Bhopal; 2) meet the demands of survivors for medical and economic rehabilitation; 3) clean up the contamination in and around the factory site and the poisoned groundwater, and provide alternative supplies of freshwater to the affected communities in the interim.

In a response to the U.S. lawmakers letter, Stavropoulos wrote in August 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.

Pallone, a Democratic Congressman from New Jersey, co-founded the U.S. House of Representatives Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans in 1993 and served as the co-chair from 1993-1998. With well over 100 members, the Caucus seeks to identify issues of concern to the growing U.S./India relationship, to advocate policies to strengthen that relationship and to serve as an informational resource for Members of Congress and their staffs about a wide range of diplomatic, security and economic issues.