When former Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson pulled his silver Cadillac into the circular driveway at his Bridgehampton, New York mansion, Greenpeace activist Casey Harrell was waiting.
While three gardeners worked in the yard — just 200 feet from the Atlantic Ocean — Anderson got out of his car and rinsed the gravel from it.
Harrell approached him. "I'm looking for Mr. Anderson," he said.
"Mr. Anderson's not here," replied a startled Anderson. "What do you want with Mr. Anderson?"
"I need to ask him a couple of questions."
At that moment, a neighbor drove by, rolled down her window and yelled, "Hey Warren, is anything the matter?"
"No, no, no!" bellowed Anderson, knowing he'd been busted. He hightailed it toward the high hedges that shielded the front of his house.
Harrell pursued Anderson, and offered him a copy of a legal document from India: "Mr. Anderson, I want to present you a warrant for your arrest."
For almost 11 years, Anderson has retreated into seclusion and eluded justice for his role in the world's deadliest industrial disaster in Bhopal, India. Ironically, three days prior to Anderson's "gotcha" moment, in Seadrift, Texas, activist Diane Wilson, who has long antagonized Dow and other chemical companies over their environmental records `"Hungry for justice," Current, August 22-28`, faced possible federal charges and jail time after scaling a Dow Chemical tower in her hometown.
On August 28, a Bhopal court ruled that the charges against Anderson for his part in the 1984 Union Carbide disaster should not be reduced from culpable homicide to negligence; according to a Bhopal activist who was in the courtroom and posted his account to an email list, the panel scolded the Central Investigation Bureau — which had asked the court to mitigate the charges — for not extraditing Anderson.
Anderson was in charge on December 3, 1984, when Union Carbide's Bhopal plant released a toxic gas that killed an estimated 8,000 people, injured 300,000, and plagued thousands more residents with lifetimes of illness, trauma, and birth defects. In 1991, an Indian court issued an arrest warrant for Anderson.
Now that Anderson has been found, Greenpeace has written the U.S. State Department asking that it summon him to an extradition hearing and then send him to India to face the culpable homicide charges.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mike Mattler told the Current that, "we don't comment on extradition matters."
Considering it took Harrell only several weeks to find Anderson at his home in Bridgehampton, an affluent enclave located east of New York City — merely by researching property records — it's unlikely that the retired CEO has spent the last decade "hiding," or that the U.S. government has tried in earnest to locate him.
"He wasn't hiding, just defying the laws of justice," Harrell said. "He's so confident that nothing is going to come of this. There is no way anyone could tell me the U.S. couldn't find this guy."
While activists worldwide wait to see if Anderson will be extradited to India to stand trial — albeit 11 years late — in Seadrift, Texas, longtime Dow antagonist Diane Wilson could go to court this year on charges of trespassing and resisting arrest after scaling the Dow Chemical ethylene oxide tower on August 26.
Wearing a hard hat, safety glasses, and a yellow banner slung over her shoulder, shortly before dawn Wilson climbed a five-foot fence, threw the banner over the top of the barbed wire, and hurdled over. Then the 54-year-old shrimp fisherwoman went to the ethylene oxide tower and climbed a ladder on the side. Seventy feet up, she unfurled her banner: Dow: Responsible for Bhopal.
"I wonder just how long before security notices the yellow banner and me sitting out on a tiny platform," Wilson wrote of her protest on an activist Website. "That's when it gets interesting. Within about 15 minutes, people are coming out of the administration offices and looking up and pointing. Then the police cars start arriving. At one count there are six white police cars, a state trooper, Dow security and fire, EMS. A little later the sheriff and FBI arrive."
After eight hot, noisy hours — "the more the sun comes up, the more if reflects off the tower and occasionally a loud hiss of steam roars out of some contraption below me" — a sheriff with a bulletproof vest was airlifted in a cage to Wilson, who had locked herself to the tower ladder.
After several minutes of discussion about Bhopal, the sheriff left, and 10 minutes later, the SWAT team arrived. "Four men, dressed in black, start jerking on my arms ... then they get impatient and say, 'Let loose of the chain,' or they are going to hit with me with pepper spray, and I say, 'Well, have at it, then.'"
However, the SWAT team didn't spray Wilson, and finally detached her from the tower in handcuffs. Her sister and aunt posted $300 for the $3,000 bail. Wilson faces up to a year in jail on the resisting arrest and 180 days for trespassing.
"It was kind of spontaneous. I didn't realize it would snowball," Wilson said later in the week. "But it was a very simple act. And they (Dow) are very upset. I'm sure quite a few heads are rolling."
Dow also is considering filing federal charges against Wilson, and according to spokeswoman Kathy Hunt, the company is "looking into their security" since the incident.
Wilson said she would not plead guilty to lesser charges to avoid a harsher sentence. "No, that's not the strategy at all. To be careful was not the strategy. When you make a stand you have to be willing to take the consequences."
One of the consequences is intimidation — although from whom, it's difficult to determine. Wilson said a helicopter hovered over her roof twice on August 28, and almost landed in the yard. During her arrest, the FBI also confiscated her cell phone, which they can use to trace calls she's made and received.
"I'm not worried. I have a strong sense of destiny," Wilson explained. "All I try to do is keep my integrity. If I get arrested, I get arrested. I'm not intimidated by the jail term."
As for Anderson, he remains at his tony Hampton home with the gardeners and the ocean and the Cadillacs — until he flees to the relative safety of his Florida winter haven. "I think he will be extradited," Wilson said. "I guarantee people are ready for some kind of control on these corporations. It's dawning on Bhopal that they can win this one."