Multinational Monitor

MAY 2001
VOL 22 No. 5


Rollback: The Corporate Regulatory Feeding Frenzy
Foreward by
Monitor Staff

Bush's Corporate Cabinet
by Charlie Cray

The Repetitive Motion Un-Rule
by Deborah Weinstock

Arsenic and Old Regs
by Lynn Thorp

The Roadless Tramelled
by Ned Daly

Bankrupt Policies
by Jake Lewis

Bush’s Hot Air
by Phil Radford

Mining Their Own Business
by Charlie Cray

Defending Contractor Irresponsibility
by Robert Weissman

A Regulatory Accident in the Making
by Charlie Cray

Cheney and Halliburton: Go Where the Oil Is
by Kenny Bruno
and Jim Vallette


The Politics and Law of Worker Rights
an interview with
William Gould


Behind the Lines

Challenging the Oiligarchy

The Front
Medical Privacy, For Now

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

Alaskan Oil Warnings

Although President Bush is touting “remarkable technological advances in the last 10 years that have dramatically decreased the environmental impact of oil and gas exploration,” employees from BP Amoco –– leader of the consortium that wants to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) –– have set up a web site ( to express their concerns about BP’s commitment to worker safety and the environment.

Operations and maintenance technicians employed at BP’s Prudhoe Bay operations west of ANWR say cost-cutting efforts have undermined their ability to respond to emergencies, while faulty safety valves have reduced the reliability of critical safety systems.

“We are afraid for our safety, and we are afraid for the environment. British Petroleum has steadfastly refused to hear our concerns,” the workers say.

BP spokesperson Ronnie Chappel says the company’s operations are “safe and getting safer. BP’s lost-time injury rate is less than half of what it was seven years ago. In a large, complex operation like ours, the only way to achieve that kind of safety performance is through good operating procedures and good maintenance.”

Although Chappel says BP has added system redundancies to halt potential environmental spills, the workers also expressed concern that a major spill could damage the industry’s reputation as the debate over drilling in ANWR heats up, and could potentially put them all out of work.

On April 17, a Phillips petroleum pipeline caused the fourth major spill of the winter on Alaska’s northern slope, spreading 92,400 gallons of saltwater and crude oil. State officials say the saltwater, which is used to boost pressure and enhance oil flow, may be more damaging to the tundra than oil.

Grace Won’t Pay

Chemicals giant W.R. Grace filed for bankruptcy protection in April, allowing it to “establish a sound capital structure for long-term growth and profitability,” while protecting the company from asbestos-related liability claims.

So far 325,000 personal injury claims have been filed and Grace has paid $1.9 billion to resolve asbestos-related litigation. The number of claims rose 81 percent in 2000 after other defendants, including Babcock & Wilcox, Owens Corning, Armstrong and GAF also filed for bankruptcy protection.

“We believe the state court system for dealing with asbestos claims is broken, and that Grace cannot effectively defend itself against unmeritorious claims,” Grace CEO Paul Norris says.

Company officials say they will continue to “work closely with asbestos claimants and other creditors,” but asbestos victims believe the move is part of a squeeze play that may leave them without any options in the future.

“With Grace going bankrupt we’ll have to go through the federal government to get funding” for treatment programs, says Gayla Bennefield, an asbestos victims advocate from Libby, Montana.

Bennefield says asbestos victims may have huge medical bills to pay in the future because Medicare is beginning to restrict coverage by categorizing asbestosis as an occupational illness. Numerous Libby residents have asbestos-related symptoms without having worked in the mines. Meanwhile, some insurance companies are refusing coverage when Medicare won’t make partial payment.

“People cannot afford this disease. Meanwhile the federal government passed a law that made credit card bankruptcy almost impossible. They protect the major corporations, but not their victims. No matter what way you cut it, people here are being screwed,” Bennefield says.

2000 Roger Awards

Tranz Rail is the recipient of the 2000 Award for the worst multinational corporation in New Zealand, the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) and GATT Watchdog announced in April.

The “Roger” award is named after Sir Roger Douglas, Minister of Finance during the Labor government of the 1980s.

Tranz Rail was judged by an independent panel as the worst based on a safety record that left five dead in seven months, as well as for planning to strip its assets and make major reductions in its workforce and services.

The company previously won the Roger “continuity award” in 1999 for its “persistent failure to address its appalling safety record” after receiving the first Roger award in 1997.

“I think our record speaks for itself,” says Sue Foley, a Tranz Rail spokesperson. “What happened in the past is past. We’ve certainly learned from it.”

British American Tobacco (BAT) was listed as the year’s runner-up.

“The whole tobacco industry richly deserves the opprobrium it receives for recruiting young people, particularly young Maori, to smoke this addictive and harmful drug to replace the profits from those wisely giving it up,” the judges noted. “What singles out BAT in 2000 is its near monopoly position [in New Zealand], created by the international merger with Rothmans.”
Other finalists were banking and oil giants, WestpacTrust and BP, together with PR firm Shandwick and last year’s winner, power company TransAlta.

CAFCA spokesperson Murray Horton says that a record number of nominations reflects “growing community concern about corporate spin and successive governments’ blind faith in the dangerous idea that what’s good for big business is good for all of us.”

–– Charlie Cray


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