Portland, OR – Six members of Oregon’s congressional delegation are urging The Pentagon to resist efforts by military contractor Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) to stick American taxpayers with the estimated $100 million bill for the company’s negligence in the 2003 poisoning of members of the Oregon National Guard serving in Iraq.
“Contractors that put our servicemen and women, as well as innocent civilians, at risk should be held accountable,” the letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of defense, reads. “At the very least, U.S. taxpayers must not be the ones paying for their mistakes. We are eager to see this case resolved and to hold accountable those that negligently expose our troops to toxic chemicals.”
The letter was signed by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader.
Last month, a federal jury in Portland, Oregon, ordered KBR to pay $85 million in damages to troops negligently exposed to toxic levels of sodium dichromate in Iraq. In its decision the jury noted that KBR acted with “reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm,” and held a “conscious indifference to the health, safety and welfare” of these brave men and women in uniform.
Under a previously-classified indemnity clause in their contract, KBR was allowed to sue the Federal government to recoup those damages plus their court costs. Earlier this week, Wyden successfully inserted an amendment into the National Defense Authorization Act that ensures that Congress is not left in the dark about clauses that leave the taxpayer paying the bill for a contractor’s malfeasance.
“We are committed to ensuring that the brave veterans from the Oregon Army National Guard that KBR negligently exposed to the cancer-causing chemical hexavalent chromium in 2003 while they guarded the Qarmat Ali water-treatment plant in Iraq receive the justice they deserve in a timely manner,” the letter reads.