Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Response to Distorted Reports by Center for Public Integrity and Greenpeace (Update: Adds further INVISTA facts)

Companion reports published simultaneously on August 24 by Greenpeace and Center for Public Integrity (CPI) are dishonest and deceptive in several key respects, omit critical information, and should be regarded with skepticism by objective readers and news organizations. There is a coordinated campaign against Koch that has been underway for some time, and these two reports are part and parcel of that effort. Both organizations have deep financial and ideological ties to partisan organizations, and have previously attacked Koch. Their August 24 reports are driven by that same agenda.

Here are the facts:

  • Koch companies place safety, the environment and compliance before profit. This is a longstanding and explicit organizational policy. That means that unless safety and compliance can be ensured, we will not operate. We accept the great responsibilities that are an inherent part of working with chemicals and we are wholly committed to providing a safe, secure and healthy environment for our employees, our neighbors, our contractors and our customers. Indeed, no one understands the critical importance of operating safe facilities more than our employees, since they and their families live in these same communities.
  • We take appropriate precautions, in compliance with laws and regulations, and in cooperation with government authorities, to adequately anticipate and address vulnerabilities. Koch’s commitment to safety and security is well documented and our operations are regarded among the best in our industries, as evidenced by the 386 safety awards and 28 environmental awards received by Koch companies just since President Obama took office. (Click here for a full listing of safety and environmental awards received since 2009.) Many of the awards were for the safe handling and processing of chemicals by various Koch companies.
  • Contrary to the CPI/Greenpeace distortion that we resisted regulation, Koch supported the bipartisan Chemical Facilities Antiterrorism Standards (CFATS) that was enacted four years ago. We regarded CFATS as the most feasible and productive measure being proposed and, what’s more, we advocated for its reauthorization in 2011. We joined with a long list of others in doing so. We have long urged that consistent and predictable science-based standards are the best way to safeguard sensitive manufacturing plants. We have worked cooperatively with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to establish standards and regulations that will provide for safe operations, as well as regulatory and policy certainty, in order to build on the success of the current CFATS model in strengthening the safety and security of chemical facilities.
  • Among the other specifics that are grossly inaccurate and irresponsible in the reports were descriptions of INVISTA’s environmental performance, including the false claim that INVISTA was responsible for noncompliance at plants acquired by Koch in 2004. The fact is that, shortly after Koch took ownership of these manufacturing facilities from its prior owner in 2004, INVISTA discovered significant and widespread environmental noncompliance that existed prior to INVISTA’s purchase, which the prior owner had not disclosed to INVISTA or the regulators. This fact was substantiated by Dave Ryan, a spokesperson for the EPA in Washington, who said: “It is fair to say the overwhelming majority of the more than 680 environmental violations… began or occurred when [the previous owner] owned the plants.” INVISTA moved quickly to investigate and disclose these violations to regulators and to systematically correct them to protect employees, the public, and the environment. INVISTA already has corrected or resolved the vast majority of the noncompliance issues. What’s more, INVISTA has earned an excellent reputation for environmental stewardship because of these and other actions it has undertaken. EPA’s own April 2009 press release (also omitted by CPI/Greenpeace) stated, “INVISTA is making a clean start in a settlement that achieves significant environmental benefits, and we encourage other new owners to do the same . . . EPA’s experience with INVISTA guided the development of a national interim audit policy for new owners – announced in August 2008 – designed to encourage other new owners to make a “clean start” at their recently acquired facilities.”

Greenpeace’s allegations concerning INVISTA ‘s LaPorte facility are false. Greenpeace’s attack also demonstrates it has no real understanding of how a plant is operated. This is not surprising since

  • Greenpeace is a fringe environmental activist group that opposes industry and is made up of individuals who generally lack practical knowledge or experience working in a chemical plant.
  • INVISTA does NOT, as Greenpeace alleges, maintain an on-site storage facility of formaldehyde at our LaPorte site. While formaldehyde is used as a raw material in the manufacturing process at INVISTA’s LaPorte site, it is transported to the site through a closed system pipeline and consumed as needed to produce intermediate chemicals that are ultimately used in the manufacture of products benefiting consumers such as LYCRA® spandex.
  • To protect employees, the environment, and the community, INVISTA adheres to applicable state and federal formaldehyde standards and regulations.
  • INVISTA’s LaPorte site uses rigorous process safety management controls, practices and procedures to ensure the safe management of formaldehyde and to prevent exposure. The site follows strict OSHA protocol to prevent worker exposures and conducts routine monitoring using standards and procedures prescribed by OSHA.
  • Greenpeace also references data based on an EPA Risk Management Plan report which manufacturers like INVISTA are required to submit that must contain a description of a “worst case scenario,” as defined by EPA, which is a highly unlikely scenario that must be identified without reference to the mitigation measures that are employed by the site. Of course, INVISTA is a responsible operator that employ layers of protection to protect our employees and neighbors, as well as manage and reduce risk.
  • The Greenpeace allegation suggesting that “INVISTA operates four dangerous facilities, the most dangerous of which is the INVISTA Intermediates Plant in LaPorte, TX” is alarmist, misleading, and inaccurate. In addition, INVISTA is in no way “endangering” the community as Greenpeace irresponsibly alleges.
  • Contrary to the Greenpeace mischaracterizations and inaccurate allegations, INVISTA’s LaPorte site has recently been recognized for its outstanding safety practices with the following awards:
    • 2011
 Merit Award, Zero Injury Rate, National Petrochemical and Refiners Association
    • Safety Achievement Award, One Year without Injury, National Petrochemical and Refiners Association
    • Caring for Texas Award, Safety and Community Outreach, Texas Chemical Council
2010
    • Caring for Texas Award, Texas Chemical Council
  • While Greenpeace is generally dismissive of these awards, the awards are from reputable organizations with extensive knowledge of industry and best safety practices-knowledge Greenpeace lacks.

All these substantive points have been made publicly and are easily verified – and yet were hidden from readers in the CPI/Greenpeace reports. Greenpeace’s radical agenda is widely known and it is highly irresponsible for it to use national security as a cover to advance their extreme policy preferences.

For its part, CPI receives heavy funding from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, a group that is both bankrolling and taking part in politically driven attacks on Koch Industries. The author of the CPI report has long been a political opinion columnist who has consistently advocated views hostile to free-market principles and policy. (See here, here, here, and, here.) We asked CPI last March how they justify these serious conflicts of interest and they have never replied.

The truth is that the Koch companies strive to protect the environment, operate safely, with integrity, and in compliance with all laws and regulations.

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