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Home» Governmental Affairs » – US Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon Requests Details of KBR Immunity from Defense Robert Gates
| – US Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon Requests Details of KBR Immunity from Defense Robert Gates


Occupational Health News Roundup

Category: Confined Space @ TPHOccupational Health & Safety
Posted on: July 22, 2010 4:42 PM, by Liz Borkowski

The Oregonian’s Julie Sullivan has been following the story of the National Guard troops who were exposed to the carcinogen hexavalent chromium at the Qarmat Ali water plant in Iraq – which contracting giant KBR was tasked with rebuilding. (Oregonian stories are here; also see our past posts on the subject here, here, and here.) Now, Sullivan reports, US Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon has sent a “sharply worded” letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asking for details about an immunity deal that KBR reportedly struck with the Department of Defense. Twenty-six Oregon Army National Guard veterans who were stationed at Qarmat Ali are suing KBR in the US District Court in Portland, claiming the company knowingly or negligently exposed them to a carcinogen; word of KBR’s immunity agreement came from a deposition in the case:

But during a June 22 deposition in the Portland case, Chris Heinrich, a Texas attorney for KBR, revealed his company had performed contingency planning in 2002 that identified hazards in the Iraqi oil fields, well before the invasion.After KBR had signed its no-bid Restore Iraqi Oil contract and as the coalition invasion was taking place in March 2003, Heinrich said he went to the Pentagon himself to demand immunity for KBR’s restoration work. Heinrich told Army officials that KBR refused to do the job unless granted “broad coverage.” KBR required that the U.S. Treasury — taxpayers and not the contractor — pay for any property damage, injury or death of any soldier or civilian working at a KBR site. That applied even if the harm resulted from KBR negligence.

“We proposed some language that we preferred to have in terms of the indemnification,” Heinrich said, adding that the agreement was typed up during that single meeting with an Army attorney. Heinrich said an amended contract was signed shortly afterward by the secretary of the army — at the time Tom White — or someone at the “secretariat level.”

In his letter to Secretary Gates, Blumenauer requests that DoD provide a copy of its contract with KBR, a list of other contractors granted indemnification, and information about the taxpayers’ financial burden resulting from indemnity agreements. He also asks “whether Congress was notified when the Department entered into contracts that burdened US taxpayers with the risk and legal responsibility for the actions of private contractors.” (Full text of the letter is here.)

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Posted by on Aug 5 2010. Filed under Governmental Affairs, Other National News, Qarmat Ali News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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