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Reynolds fails to protect Iowa workers
May. 26, 2023 12:31 pm
Why was Gov. Kim Reynolds the only Iowan to be surprised that a company trying to turn roofing shingles into diesel fuel would require a poisonous mix of toxic, dangerous chemicals? And why wasn't it obvious to her that the workers involved in turning shingles into diesel fuel would be working with toxic chemicals in extremely hazardous conditions?
Unfortunately for those workers and the neighbors near the toxic plant in Marengo, Reynolds and her staff at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources ignored EPA's warnings, including the fact that the scofflaw company was being run out of two other states with its toxic-shingles-to-diesel operation.
Instead of heeding this credible warning and stopping this shady actor from setting up shop in Iowa, the governor allowed C6-Zero to operate without a permit and with virtually no worker or environmental protections.
In fact, instead of complying with regulators basic requests for information about its operation, C6-Zero knew how to play the game in Iowa: They hired a well-connected lobbyist and former chief of staff to the Gov. Terry Branstad/Reynolds administration to run interference with state officials so their toxic business could operate unimpeded.
C6-Zero’s strategy paid off long enough to expose their workers to toxic levels of deadly workplace poisons, cause an explosion and fire that sent 20 people to the hospital, some with life threatening injuries. The fire destroyed more than $600,000 in local fire and emergency response equipment and created a polluted site that will cost millions to clean up for years to come.
Adding insult to injury, in the aftermath of the Dec. 8 explosion and fire, Reynolds rushed in with the check book and rewarded C6-Zero’s negligence with $1.3 million in taxpayer funds to help cleanup the mess they caused.
There is some good news. The U.S. EPA has taken control of the investigation and cleanup of the site from the Reynolds' operation. They will have their work cut out for them holding this company financially liable for the cleanup of cancer-causing chemicals and contaminated soil at this new Superfund site.
Reynolds needs to be held accountable for the human and environmental harm she allowed to happen in Iowa County.
C6-Zero owners should be held criminally liable for their complete disregard for the health and safety of people in Marengo and for failing to tell their employees and local fire and emergency responders what chemicals were being used at the plant.
The chemical exposures have left former plant workers sick and vulnerable to cancer and life-shortening illnesses. C6-Zero should be required to pay for medical monitoring and any health care bills for years to come for all of their former employees and a 100 percent of the cleanup costs for their toxic mess.
When Reynolds stops in Iowa County on her 99-county tour, she should meet with injured workers, emergency responders and their families. She can update them all the ways her Republican administration has promoted low wage rural jobs and reduced worker safety and environmental regulations.
Joe Bolkcom is a former Democratic state senator from Iowa City.
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