W.R. Grace & Co. will fight the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision that restored criminal charges of “knowing endangerment” in the case against the chemical manufacturer and its top managers. The appellate court also reversed decisions that would have narrowed the definition of asbestos and limited the materials available to expert witnesses. Asbestos expert witnesses will be testifying in the “mega-trial” in Missoula expected to commence in late winter or early spring of 2008.
According to the February 2005 indictment, Grace and six one-time executives concealed the dangers of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mined near Libby and conspired “knowingly to release asbestos, a hazardous air pollutant, into the ambient air” said David M. Uhlmann, Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Program at the University of Michigan. Uhlmann called the Grace prosecution “one of the most significant cases ever brought under the federal environmental crimes program.” The Missoulian also reports:
‘A number of prior cases have charged knowing endangerment, and some of those have involved worker injuries or deaths,’ Uhlmann explained. ‘But the allegations in the Grace case stand alone in terms of the duration of the alleged misconduct and the resulting harm to the citizens of Libby, Montana.’