Lone Tree Council and TRW
DIOXIN UPDATE # 139
May 14, 2009
Huge Dow Shareholder Vote Urges Transparency on Cleanup
May 14, 2009
Contact: Sanford Lewis, 413 549-7333
Valerie Heinonen, 212 674 2542
Midland, Michigan. Almost 30% of Dow's voting shareholders voted to urge the company to report on progress to clean up a massive contamination site at Dow's mid-Michigan global headquarters. This is the third year in a row that this resolution has received significant support from shareholders.
Shareholders were responding to a resolution forwarded by the Sisters of Mercy challenging the company's potential liabilities associated with the slow pace of cleanup. The vote follows on the heels of continued controversy on the company's progress in cleaning up the contamination downstream from their global headquarters. There has also been continued controversy surrounding the ousted EPA Regional Director and her removal from office allegedly for requiring the company to remove contaminated sediments.
The resolution, which required the company to "issue a report to shareholders...summarizing the pace and effectiveness of the environmental remediation process being undertaken by Dow in the vicinity of and downstream from its Midland headquarters," garnered unusually strong support with 28.5% of shares voted, according to the preliminary count of votes reported by the company at the meeting. Shareholder resolutions requiring reports of this nature typically garner 3-10% of voting shares. Last year's vote garnered 22% of the voting shares.
Shareholders may be concerned about potential ongoing liability from the company's handling of the more than 50-mile long contamination stretching from the company's headquarters to the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron. Fish and wildgame in the region are contaminated and advisories were strengthened last year. Area residents have elevated levels of dioxin in their blood when compared with a control population. In a high profile move in the past two years, the company was required by the Environmental Protection Agency to remove highly contaminated "hot spots" from the river. Also in the last year, the highest level of dioxin ever measured in the country was found 25 miles from the Dow facility.
Dow's response has been to downplay the hazards of dioxin, the toxic compound which characterizes the contamination. Dow has also sought to negotiate behind closed doors, outside of public scrutiny.
"We believe this vote for the third year in a row signals an interest in a more forthright approach to protect shareholder value," said Valerie Heinonen of the Sisters of Mercy Detroit, who filed the resolution on Midland contamination. "As shareholders, we are concerned that the continued delays in Dow's remediation of dioxin exposures near their flagship Midland facilities could lead to increased long-term liabilities. Dow's reluctance to address such a publicly documented contamination problem, especially in its own backyard, raises red flags about how the company deals with environmental and human health concerns more broadly." She continued, "we are concerned that they are investing more in public relations than in efforts to provide real solutions."
"When nearly 30% of Dow's 939 million shares voted for more transparency and action on this issue, the company should take notice," said Sanford Lewis, attorney, who drafted the resolution. "The company has appeared in a series of high profile negative media stories related to the contamination. The reputational damage to the company is significant, and suggests a resolution to this issue is long overdue."
Sanford Lewis, Attorney is with the Strategic Counsel on Corporate Accountability Valerie Heinonen, O.S.U., is a consultant on corporate social responsibility for the Sisters of Mercy-Regional Community of Detroit and for the Mercy Investment Program
For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawassee River Watch web site www.trwnews.net. for complete coverage of the Tittabawassee River Dow Chemical dioxin contamination saga.. The source organization's web site link is listed above. The Newspaper / Media page of our site contains an extensive archive of media articles dating back to January 2002. The Newspaper / Media page may be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of the CONTENTS section and clicking on the Newspaper/Media link.