DuPont Ignores Catastrophic Liability at Shareholders Meeting

by John Deans

April 27, 2011

Greenpeace A.E. Bates airship flies over Dupont's Deepwater, NJ plant

Today, DuPont is holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Wilmington, DE.

Attending shareholders will receive a lot of information, but Greenpeace suspected that the folks at DuPont’s corporate headquarters would be glossing over one important item—that DuPont’s chemical facilities continue to jeopardize the lives of about 9 million Americans by stockpiling hazardous toxic and flammable chemicals.

Not only is this a concern for vulnerable communities, but shareholders and investors should note that an accident at one of their facilities could cost billions of dollars.

To keep DuPont honest, on Earth Day Greenpeace mailed a letter to DuPont’s CEO, Ellen Kullman requesting a meeting about the company’s staggering potential liability and its lobbying efforts against requirements for safer chemical processes. To help DuPont, we attached a 27 page, annotated bibliography that cites over 70 authoritative reports about the hazardous chemicals that DuPont stores and the safer alternatives that are available to the company.

But don’t be fooled, DuPont is well aware of its security gaps. In 2007, then CEO, Charles O. Holliday, jr., stated that “if someone wants to fly an airplane into a plant, it’s very hard to guard against it.”

Yet, DuPont alone has dozens of these hazardous facilities in locations all over the country. These plants store hazardous chemicals in sufficient quantities to become weapons of mass destruction for criminals and terrorists with the means and the will to use them.

DuPont should share a few items about the company’s potential liability with the shareholders at the AGM. In particular we noticed that DuPont’s description of its liability in its 10-K is noticeably incomplete. To help fill in these blanks, we referenced government and industry reports including one that discusses a situation in which, “a chlorine spill scenario results in 42,600 casualties, over 10,000 of which are fatal. Insurance claims covering these casualties would exceed $7 billion.” Shareholders and investors have a right to know about the company’s potential liability and the havoc that an accidental release or act of terrorism could wreak on the community, state, or even the nation as a whole.

We look forward to meeting with DuPont’s decision makers to get answers to some perplexing questions. Why, given the widespread availability of safer alternatives, does the company continue to put so many people at risk? Second, even putting aside the company’s past foot-dragging on conversion, why does DuPont continue to lobby against disaster prevention legislation that would eliminate catastrophic risks where safer alternatives are feasible?

We look forward to DuPont’s response.

John Deans

By John Deans

As a former Arctic Campaigner, John worked with lawmakers, coalition partners, activists, and the media in Greenpeace's efforts to protect the Arctic from the dangers of industrial activity.

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