Press Release, April 9, 2008
Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany)
Protests against Bayer´s carbon monoxide pipeline
countermotion to shareholder meeting / 80,000 protest signatures
The Bayer group's plans to convey highly toxic carbon monoxide (CO) between their German plants in Dormagen and Krefeld by pipeline are causing great concern among the population. Vigils and rallies are regularly being organized along the route, and more than 80,000 protest signatures have since been collected.
An expert report from the town of Ratingen came to the conclusion that more than 100,000 residents would be endangered by a fracture in the pipeline. "If anything happens here, half of the population of Hilden will be knocked out," says a member of the firefighting department responsible for emergency management. The mayor of the City of Monheim, Thomas Duenchheim, from the conservative party CDU puts it even more drastically, and speaks of a "death strip" along the pipeline. Both conservatives and socialdemocrats take part in the local protests.
The project is without parallel. The Government District President of Duesseldorf admits that "there is no extensive documentation about long-distance pipelines for carbon monoxide, because hardly any such pipelines exist anywhere in the world." In an earthquake-endangered area such as the region along the Rhine, damage to the pipeline and even a complete fracture are not unthinkable. Damage due to corrosion, construction work, a plane crash or terrorist attack are also possible. The towns of Monheim, Hilden, Erkrath and Langenfeld have therefore already filed an action against the project.
Philipp Mimkes from the Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany): “The higher risk for the residents and the necessary compulsory purchases are justified by Bayer and the Regional Government by "benefits for the public good". In fact, these advantages do not exist. Construction of the pipeline is based exclusively on Bayer's profit interests, because the aim of the planned pipeline is simply to provide better capacity utilization of the plants in Dormagen and Krefeld. Instead of conveying carbon monoxide along a 67 km pipeline, Bayer could just as easily build a modern CO production plant in Krefeld. This would completely eliminate the risks to residents living near the pipeline. Because of the higher costs, however, Bayer has until now disregarded this solution.
On top of this, Bayer's promise to safeguard jobs is neither proven nor guaranteed. On the contrary, the more probable outcome is that, after the pipeline has gone into operation, the CO production plant in Krefeld will be closed and jobs lost. This is because, in Krefeld, Bayer has been using an outdated, energy-intensive technology for carbon monoxide production. In November 2006, in fact, the plant had to be closed for several weeks because of a fire. Just how little the save-the-jobs argument can be trusted is also proved by the announcement by Bayer MaterialScience - the party commissioning the pipeline - that it will eliminate one tenth of the workforce despite posting record profits last year. This means that 1,500 jobs will be lost worldwide.
In the opinion of the Coalition against Bayer Dangers and other initiatives, no legal basis exists for the project. The compulsory purchases and the danger to the population cannot be justified by higher profits for Bayer. The construction of the pipeline would also be a dangerous precedent, because in future other companies could, in similar circumstances, refer to the authorization granted to Bayer. The Coalition against Bayer Dangers introduced a countermotion to Bayer´s Annual Stockholders´ Meeting which demands not to ratify the board until the construction work is stopped. The group demands that the authorization to operate the pipeline must not be granted. The countermotion will be discussed in Bayer´s Shareholder Meeting at Cologne/Germany on April 25.
The legal interpretation by the pipeline critics was confirmed in mid-December by the Higher Administrative Court in Muenster. This Court banned operation of the pipeline. The judges decided that no explanation was given in the Expropriation Law of the extent to which the general public would benefit from the private interests of the Bayer Group. The Court's decision cannot be challenged before a decision is taken in the main trial, and the case is likely to extend over several years. Despite the unambiguous vote by the Higher Administrative Court and despite the widespread concern among the general public, Bayer so far continues to build the pipeline.
The countermotions are online on Bayer´s website: http://www.asm2008.bayer.com/en/countermotions.aspx