Skip to Main Content

Federal Agency Tasked with Investigating Major Chemical Explosions Hindered by Forced Staffing Reduction

Texas Plant Explosion Lawyer | Texas Refinery Explosion Lawyer | Texas Pipeline Explosion Lawyer

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the federal agency responsible for investigating major chemical plant, pipeline, and refinery explosions, is struggling to function, following a reduction in staffing that has reduced its investigative team by nearly half.

CSB Was Already the Smallest Federal Agency

The CSB was established in 1990, under the Clean Air Act and has a well-regarded reputation for getting to the root cause of catastrophic chemical explosions and issuing recommendations that have been credited with saving countless lives.

The CSB usually consists of five board members and fewer than 50 staff. It ranks as the smallest federal agency, with an annual budget of just $12 million.

“It’s a vitally important agency that has an outsize impact for a very small budget,” Glenn Ruskin, communications director for the American Chemical Society, told last year. “The safety board is an honest broker at identifying problems, and industry appreciates having that.”

Reduction of CSB Personnel Comes as Management Pushes More Lenient Safety Requirements

According to The Houston Chronicle, the recent personnel reduction has cut the CSB’s 20-member investigatory team down to 12.

There are currently also two vacancies on the its 5-member board, following the departure of its chairwoman in May.

What’s more, it’s not at all clear that the Trump Administration – which has sought to eliminate the Board entirely since the President took office in January 2017 – will ever move to fill the vacancies.

While attempts to eliminate the CSB have gone nowhere, recent evidence suggests that the Administration’s continued attacks may be influencing a more lenient stance towards the industries it investigates.

Among other things, a Board memo obtained by the Houston Chronicle stated that management wants shorter investigations and has discouraged investigators from analyzing a company’s safety culture as part of their probes.

The memo also indicated that the Board wants to end the circulation of draft reports to the company, union officials, and experts prior to an investigation’s conclusion.

It’s also seeking to outsource the writing of final reports.

Is the CSB Ready for the Next Big Chemical Disaster?

Critics of the Trump Administration’s war on regulations now fear that the CSB won’t perform effectively when the next major disaster strikes.

“I don’t think they could with the staff capacity, the situation they’re in now,” U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Democrat whose 29th District includes the Houston Ship Channel, told the Chronicle.

In fact, the Board has already opted not to investigate several recent incidents.

For example, while the CSB has launched investigations into the explosion at the Husky Energy oil refinery in Wisconsin, as well as the Kuraray America plant explosion in Pasadena, Texas, it has declined to deploy teams to recent explosions at the Valero refinery in Texas City or the Meridian Magnesium plant in Michigan.

Undefeated Plant Explosion Lawyers – Call 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here for a Free Consult.

With more than $1 billion won for more than 1,000 injured and tragically killed plant, refinery and pipeline workers throughout Texas, Louisiana, and the United States, our Undefeated Plant Explosion Lawyers have the resources and experience to ensure that injured workers and their families are fully compensated for all of their injuries or losses.

If you or someone you love were injured or tragically killed in an industrial accident or explosion, please call 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form.

All consultations are free and, since we work exclusively on a contingency-fee basis, you’ll owe nothing unless we win your case.