FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Thousands Injured, 275 Dead, WR Grace Not Guilty

A vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana.

Supplying the world with materials for insulation and potting soil.

One problem.

The vermiculite has asbestos.

And the asbestos has poisoned the town.

Killed 275 of its residents.

And sickened thousands of others.

For years, the feds didn’t do anything about it.

Neither did the state of Montana.

Finally in 2004 – under heavy pressure from the community – the company and seven executives were indicted.

For violating federal environmental laws.

Charges against four of the executives were tossed.

And last year, a jury came back with not guilty verdicts against the company and remaining three executives.

Montana journalist Andrea Peacock tells the moving story in her new book – Wasting Libby: The True Story of How The WR Grace Corporation Left a Montana Town to Die – And Got Away With It (CounterPunch / AK Press, 2010).

Actor Jeff Bridges says the book “tells the story of a small town in Montana that was contaminated then discarded.”

“Libby is littered with the dead and the dying, poisoned by the corporation that employed them and ignored by a government it trusted to protect them,” Bridges writes in a foreword to the book. “As she uncovers the layers of this betrayal, she also discovers the resilience of the people of Libby.”

After years of inaction, why finally did the government decide to criminally prosecute the company and the executives?

“It was such an outrageous case,” Peacock told me last week.

“Before the criminal case was brought, I always thought – if we could just put a few of these guys in jail.”

“Not just in the Libby case, but in all of these cases where corporate executives take deliberate actions to harm people, if we just start sending a few of these guys to jail, it might be enough of a deterrent that other companies would think twice.”

“In this case, the harm wasn’t financial – they killed people.”

“And it was such an egregious example, that the EPA and the Department of Justice must have felt they had to do something about it.”

“The original criminal case was dismissed. They were permitted to file a superceding indictment. The defendants were charged with violations of the Clean Air Act – and there were conspiracy and obstruction charges.”

The trial lasted a little over eleven weeks. It ended on May 8, 2009.

“Everyone was acquitted,” Peacock said. “Originally, there were seven defendants. One of them died while waiting for trial. The other one was an attorney for Grace and had his case severed, then later it was dismissed. Five individuals and the corporation were tried. Toward the end of the trial, the charges were dismissed against two of the individuals. And the company and the other three were acquitted by the jury.”

“Between the statutes of limitation and dates the prosecutors had to work with, it was a difficult case to win.”

To Gayla Benefield, who lead the citizens demand for a criminal prosecution, the not guilty verdict was a bitter pill.

Benefield lost her mother and father to asbestos disease.

And she now has asbestosis.

“The activists were terribly disappointed with the verdict,” Peacock says. “They saw this case as their best shot at some kind of official recognition that a wrong had been done. It was their one big shot at justice.”

“There is still a possibility that the state of Montana could bring homicide charges. But I don’t think anyone has any interest in that now. They felt this federal case was their chance. When that didn’t work out, they have all pretty much have gone on with their lives.”

How can a journalist remain objective when faced with such death and disease and injustice?

“I like to present what I see and let people draw their own conclusions,” Peacock says.

“In this case, it was so clear cut what had been done to the people there. There were thousands of individual stories. But the bottom line was that Grace had inflicted a terrible wrong on Libby. There was no way around that.”

RUSSELL MOKHIBER is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter.

[For a complete transcript of the Interview with Andrea Peacock, see 24 Corporate Crime Reporter 29(11), July 19, 2010, print edition only.]

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

More articles by:

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter..

December 19, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russophobia and the Specter of War
Jonathan Cook
American Public’s Backing for One-State Solution Falls on Deaf Ears
Daniel Warner
1968: The Year That Will Not Go Away
Arshad Khan
Developing Country Issues at COP24 … and a Bit of Good News for Solar Power and Carbon Capture
Kenneth Surin
Trump’s African Pivot: Another Swipe at China
Patrick Bond
South Africa Searches for a Financial Parachute, Now That a $170 Billion Foreign Debt Cliff Looms
Tom Clifford
Trade for Hostages? Trump’s New Approach to China
Binoy Kampmark
May Days in Britain
John Feffer
Globalists Really Are Ruining Your Life
John O'Kane
Drops and the Dropped: Diversity and the Midterm Elections
December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail