Imperial testimony angers senator - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Imperial testimony angers senator

US senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) US senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Imperial Sugar vice president Graham H. Graham Imperial Sugar vice president Graham H. Graham
We talked to Senator Chambliss today via satellite. We talked to Senator Chambliss today via satellite.

By WTOC staff

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - There has been some strong reactions and pointed questions after a tense exchange between US senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Imperial Sugar vice president Graham H. Graham Tuesday during a Senate hearing on combustible dust.

"Why didn't you Mr. Graham go to the management, if you don't shut this plant down and clean up you are going to have a dangerous situation which did occur two weeks later," asked Chambliss during the Senate hearing.

Graham replied, "I did. I told Mr. Sheptor I was surprised we hadn't killed anyone already because the plant is so dangerous, I was told that I have too much passion and too extreme and I had to temper it."

We talked to Senator Chambliss today via satellite. He refuted claims that he was looking out for Imperial Sugar admitting frustration that anyone foresaw the potential for disaster and failed to do whatever was necessary to prevent it.

"You know, my anger's directed at Imperial Sugar company and he is the agent of Imperial Sugar company," Chambliss told us. "So that's why I was so upset the other day and I continue to be upset because I've looked these families in the eye and I've looked a couple of the victims in the eye and their life has been changed as a result of this and this man gives the appearance that he could have stopped it, that he could have made sure that the plant was shut down and things could have been cleaned up before this accident ever happened."

We spoke to Mr. Graham's attorney Philip Hilder. He told us that Graham was hired just six weeks before the explosion inheriting the situation and immediately took steps to clean things up.

Hilder issued a statement in response to Chambliss' comments. To read it in its entirety, see below:

Mr. Graham was hired six weeks before blast. He inherited a situation that existed for years prior to employment. He immediately took steps to clean up environment and has testified before the Senate. There was push back by senior management. To lay the blame of the blast on Mr. Graham by Chambliss is the height of irresponsibility. It is unfortunate that the Senator has chosen to shoot the messenger, thereby distracting from the good work that Senator Isakson's committee is doing to protect workers from future, similar instances.

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