WASHINGTON (AP) -- A congressional committee said Tuesday that Bayer CropScience withheld information from emergency responders after a deadly explosion at a West Virginia chemical plant last summer.
The staff report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee said its investigation revealed that Bayer CropScience "engaged in a campaign of secrecy." The explosion at the Bayer plant in Institute killed two people.
The explosion came close to compromising a tank holding methyl isocyanate, or MIC, the report said. The same chemical was responsible for the deaths of thousands in Bhopal, India, when it leaked from a former Union Carbide plant in 1984.
Had a projectile from last summer's explosion hit that tank, the report said, the consequences "could have eclipsed" the 1984 disaster.
Committee chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said that 25 years after that accident, "I think it's finally time to ask whether it makes sense to allow Bayer to continue producing and storing such massive amounts of this highly toxic chemical."
The report was released at a House Energy and Commerce investigation subcommittee hearing.
The chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which is conducting its own investigation, told the subcommittee that "significant lapses in process safety management" probably played a role in the accident.
John Bresland, the safety board chairman, said that plant operators had received inadequate training on a new computer system, which was being used for the first time, and that written operating procedures were outdated. The board will hold a hearing in Institute on Thursday.
Earlier this month, Bresland had said that Bayer CropScience told the board that some of the information about the plant couldn't be disclosed because it was deemed security sensitive by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard announced at that time that it would clear the release of the information.
Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha Commission, complained about a "veil of secrecy" on the part of company officials, and he questioned how much information would be forthcoming at Thursday's safety board hearing.
"What kind of meeting will that be if certain information is being withheld from the public?" he asked.