Under-Insured and Incompetent—Company Behind West Virginia’s Chemical Spill Files For Bankruptcy

BY JEFF SPROSS

Elk River Chemical Spill

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/TYLER EVERT

According to the Charleston Gazette, Freedom Industries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today.

On January 10, a tank owned by Freedom spilled 7,500 gallons of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM) — a chemical used to wash coal of its impurities — into West Virginia’s Elk River. As a result, over 300,000 people in the state were left without drinking water for almost five days, and numerous reports of illnesses possibly related to the spill are already filtering in.

According to an anonymous source close to the company who spoke to the Gazette, they believe the spill may have been caused by a broken pipe that allowed water to flow under the tanks. The water then froze, splitting the tank open from below. The tanks were surrounded by a retaining wall — which state officials had described as “shoddy” — but they were sitting on gravel, allowing the chemical spill to leach into the ground below.

Freedom’s filing lists $1 to $10 million in assets, $1 to $10 million in liabilities, and 200 to 999 creditors.

As of Thursday, at least 20 lawsuits had been filed against Freedom Industries over the leak. The company reportedly lacks an umbrella insurance policy, and what coverage it does have is “inadequate to cover the amount of claims in this case.”

“Under the bankruptcy code,” the Gazette reports, “Chapter 11 permits a company to reorganize and continue operating.” Chapter 11 also requires all creditors to stop all collection attempts.

As this case winds its way through the court system, the public process will give West Virginians a very good sense of what was going on behind the scenes of this company that has caused to much disruption in their lives.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

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Learning Deficit? — GOP: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”

PBGCGee, I’ll bet you thought that when Romney lost the election, his philosophies died along with the end of that race.  You might also have hoped that the GOP might have learned that a clear majority of Americans didn’t care for their brand of leadership.  Well, you would be wrong.  That famous Romney quote, “Let Detroit go bankrupt” has risen once again from the dead and GOP senators like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) are espousing legislation that would ensure Detroit does go bankrupt and that they get absolutely NO federal help (other than, of course, to ensure the big money interests get their rake right off the top) as Detroit goes through bankruptcy.

Judicial activity at both the State and Federal levels presently seems skewed in favor of large investors and against public workers (teachers, police, firemen, etc.) who face losing pensions for which they worked their entire lives.  Loss of their main source of income will force those pensioners onto State and Federal safety net programs.  Please keep in mind that, while the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation insures private-sector pensions, it does not insure state, county, or city plans. So, when there’s no money in the bankruptcy settlement to pay pensions, Detroit’s public worker pensioners may find themselves penniless, lest they have alternate income sources.  That’s because,according to Herb Perone from Perone Communications, “there is no equivalent to the PBGC for public sector plans. Public sector plans are backed by the full faith and credit of the state.” And of course, Detroit is bankrupt.  Thus, the GOP leadership of Michigan has no faith that those retirees might vote for them, so in their book, they’re expendable. There are bigger corporate fish to fry instead, through which they can secure their political futures.

Also keep in mind, this bankruptcy filing and potential pension filching is occurring at the same time that the House of Representatives just passed a bill totally zeroing out all funding for SNAP funds (food stamps) and when they’re pumping up their chests boasting to once again shut down government if they’re not allowed to kill Obamacare, the EPA, the Consumer Protection Bureau and Dodd-Frank financial reform so they can let Wall Steet to do whatever damage they chose to create on any given day to the overall worldwide economy.

This vision of selfish anarchy and governmental impotence espoused by the GOP has to end.  We have got to get active, we’ve got to get involved, and we’ve got to get them out of our government both at the State and Federal levels if our nation is to survive.  We need to actively work at removing these vermin from public office.  If we don’t, it will be the end of our great nation, and not even the “Lord” will be able help us if the GOP manages to succeed in their efforts to dismantle the America in which we grew up.