homepage logo

Danish agency criticizes Rockwool

By Delegate John Doyle - Report From the Legislature | Jul 2, 2021

Last month, the Danish Mediation and Complaints-Handling Institution for Responsible Business Conduct (NCP Denmark) cited Rockwool’s Ranson facility for violating the rules of the Organization for Economic and Community Development (OECD).

OECD is an international body consisting of about 40 member nations, each of which has agreed to monitor the behavior of companies headquartered within its borders while doing business in the other member nations. Each nation has a “national contact point (NCP),” thus the designation “NCP Denmark” for this Danish Institution. The U.S. NCP is an office in the State Department.

Rockwool was cited by NCP Denmark for violating OECD rules on two counts.

Rockwool did not do sufficient due diligence to determine if its Ranson location would harm the surrounding community environmentally, economically or socially. NCP Denmark said that Rockwool’s due diligence was “transactional” in nature, confined to the question of how the location would affect Rockwool alone, not the surrounding community.

And NCP Denmark faulted Rockwool for failing to do sufficient community outreach. Such “outreach” as Rockwool did was only to some public officials, not to the community at large.

NCP Denmark’s ruling came as a result of a complaint filed in September 2019, by several citizens. Full disclosure, I’m one of those citizens.

While Rockwool has been properly faulted, it’s not the only faulty party. Government agencies at the state and local level failed the people of Jefferson County by ignoring what I believe to be the first responsibility of officials in a free government, which is to be straight with the people you serve.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) failed to order public hearings before any permits were issued. And the governments of Jefferson County and the City of Ranson failed to urge the DEP to do so.

Had Rockwool conducted the outreach OECD requires, it might have recognized some problems. Rockwool has promised to obey OECD rules in the future. Perhaps that’s why Rockwool is using an “electric arc” fuel furnace in the plant it’s announced it will build in Soissons, France (rather than burning coal or natural gas on site). Rockwool says that the electric grid in France doesn’t use polluting fuels. But the electric grid in the U.S. has been transitioning to renewable fuels, and I suspect will continue that transition at an increasing rate. Besides, a Rockwool competitor in Ravenswood, W.Va., uses the electric arc.

As to water pollution, had Rockwool done the due diligence required by OECD, it might have upgraded its stormwater management plan to one approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Karst topography. Again, the West Virginia DEP should have required such a plan.

While the NCP Denmark decision doesn’t have force of law, Rockwool is not off the hook. NCP Denmark will monitor Rockwool for a year. There is still time to demand that government at every level insist that Rockwool keep Jefferson County’s air and water clean.

I believe it was Patrick Henry who said, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

John Doyle is a delegate for the West Virginia District 67. He can be reached at johndoyle@wvhouse.gov.