As Construction of Baltimore Incinerator Is Halted, Activists Rally for Justice for Bhopal
Thursday, June 26, 2014
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Today we bring you an an important development in a story The Real News has been covering closely here in Baltimore, as well as a report from a recent protest in D.C. demanding justice for the victims of the Bhopal gas disaster, which has claimed thousands of lives over the past three decades.
In local news, the Maryland Department of Environment has stopped construction of the Energy Answers incinerator over its failure to purchase pollution offsets. As The Real News has reported, these offsets are necessary because the incinerator will release hundreds of tons of pollution every year in an area that already contains more air pollution then is permissible under the Clean Air Act and is the most polluted zip code in the entire state of Maryland.
MIKE EWALL, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, ENERGY JUSTICE NETWORK: [This is] most likely a signal that the company does not have the financing that they need to move forward, either that or they’re such sloppy managers of their operation that they can’t be trusted to operate the largest incinerator in the country.
NOOR: Mike Ewall is a leading anti-incinerator activist and founder and director of the Energy Justice Network.
EWALL: In a reasonable regulatory system, they would not [have a chance?] to be built at all in that location or really anywhere. But the regulatory system that we do have says if you’re going to add pollution to an area that’s already intensively polluted, then you need to buy these offsets, and somewhere else emissions will be reduced, and that’s supposed to make it okay.
NOOR: If completed, the Energy Answers Renewable Energy Project will be the largest incinerator in the country and the first completed in 15 years. Ewall says the Maryland Department of Environment’s decision poses a serious threat to the completion of the project.
EWALL: Its hard to say if this is the nail or if it’s one of the nails, but it definitely is a good indication that their finances are in order and that they probably are going to pull the plug on this project at some point.
NOOR: Ewall says he, along with many local activists The Real News has interviewed, oppose the incinerator because they are not an efficient way to turn waste into energy, and emit dangerous levels of pollution.
EWALL: Incinerators are the most expensive and polluting way to manage waste or make energy. And they tend to disproportionately pollute communities of color and low-income communities. And they’re not necessary, and they should not exist anywhere.
NOOR: Ahead of my upcoming trip to Bhopal, India, I also recently covered a protest targeting Dow Chemical, which purchased Union Carbide, the owner of a chemical plant in Bhopal that leaked dangerous chemicals into the local community nearly 30 years ago.
T. KUMAR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: In Bhopal 30 years ago, thousands died because of gas leak. And we want Dow to go and answer that in front of an Indian court on July 4. So far, Dow have refused. So we are here to make a public statement that they have a duty and to face justice for the victims of the Bhopal.
NOOR: So the plant was owned by Union Carbide, which was bought by Dow chemicals. Now Union Carbide says they’ve already settled with the Indian government for hundreds of millions of dollars and that the local government now owns the facility–they’re not responsible for that anymore. What’s your response to that?
KUMAR: I mean, for us, an Indian court have ordered, issued a summons. And we want Dow to go and answer. The same answer they can give to the Indian court, that they are not part of it. Why are they hiding? That’s why we are say–here, saying that don’t hide from the summons and go and answer. If your answer is correct, then you’ll be acquitted. So why are you hiding?
NOOR: It happened 30 years ago. Are people still feeling the effects of that gas leak today?
KUMAR: Yes, still. Thousands, more than 150,000 are affected, especially women. And still people are undergoing enormous hardship for what happened 30 years ago. The land is not being cleaned yet.
NOOR: On their website, Union Carbide has a statement which says, according to an Indian government study, the area is now clean. There’s no chemicals seeping into the groundwater there.
KUMAR: We disagree that the area is clean. There are numerous studies from independent groups that say it’s still polluted. So we need Dow Chemical to go and answer to those charges. And if they’re innocent, they’ll be acquitted. And also do a fresh study by the Indian government to clean it up.
NOOR: So the issue of accountability–who’s really responsible for this? ‘Cause Dow Chemical says it’s not them, and now an Indian court is asking Dow to appear.
KUMAR: It is the Indian judicial system that has to take it up. If Dow is not liable, then they’ll be acquitted. So we are here pretty much asking Dow to face justice and answer. We are not saying Dow is the culprit. We are saying go and face the justice, which–they are not ready and they are hiding.
NOOR: From what I understand, the Indian government for many years held on to a large amount of the settlement that Union Carbide paid. And this is also a secret agreement between Union Carbide and the Indian government. No victims were involved in that settlement, which took place in 1987, I believe.
KUMAR: Yeah. We are here for the July 4 hearing. The other issue is the cleaning up and accountability, which we’ll take up on the 30th anniversary to [incompr.] international community to get involved, to clean and give all the reparation.
NOOR: For The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.