Sustained Outrage

Chemical safety board secrecy?


We reported last week that the federal Chemical Safety Board was going ahead with a public meeting to discuss its investigation of the August explosion that killed two workers at Bayer CropScience’s plant in Institute.

Now, the journal Chemical & Engineer News has provided some more details of how the safety board plans to deal with claims by Bayer — and perhaps the U.S. Coast Guard — that some information about the explosion and fire should be kept from the public in the name of anti-terrorism.

Among the interesting stuff in the latest report from journalist Jeff Johnson are details on the agreement between the board and the Department of Homeland Security on the April 23 public meeting:

“We have been told by DHS officials that chemical plant safety will outweigh security issues unless there is a clear security issue that should not be disclosed,” Bresland says. “We are confident we can work this out with DHS, but we want to be transparent to the public about what we can and can’t show,” Bresland says. Hence, he says, if DHS objects to information in the slides, CSB will black out parts of the actual slides used at the meeting.

In addition:

…It is unlikely the CSB-Bayer conflict is settled. On March 13, Bayer attorneys requested that CSB allow them to examine some 48 documents the company submitted to CSB to see whether the material should be restricted. The board won’t comply, Bresland says.

“Our main judge on sensitive security information will be DHS,” Bresland says. “And our main mission is to do good independent investigations. It will be difficult for us to do so if someone is always looking over our shoulder and telling us what we can and can’t say in our reports.”

Currently, the board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the West Virginia State University Wilson Building, Multipurpose Room, 103 University Union, Institute It is is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is not required, but to assure adequate seating attendees are encouraged to pre-register by emailing their names and affiliations by April 10.  Kanawha Valley residents who are upset about all this secrecy could probably mention that in their e-mail messages to that address as well.

Finally, for folks who don’t remember the explosion and the refusal of Bayer to answer questions from local emergency responders, here’s some video posted on YouTube: