The federal Chemical Safety Board has been in the news for calling off a public meeting under pressure from attorneys for Bayer CropScience. Bayer apparently doesn’t want Kanawha Valley residents to know how close a tank of deadly methyl isocyanate was to the explosion last August at the Institute plant. So far, the board is willing to go along with this secrecy.
But at about the same time that explosion occurred, the Chemical Board was also being criticized, in a report to Congress from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The board is modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board, and its job is to investigate the causes of chemical accidents and recommend reforms to make the nation’s chemical industry safer. Unlike EPA or OSHA, the board has no real regulatory authority. It just investigates and makes recommendations.
But the GAO found in an Aug. 22, 2008, report that the board wasn’t doing enough and, in fact, had not implemented reform recommendations made back in 2000:
First, there’s the “investigations gap.” The CSB investigates just a fraction of the incidents that meet its triggering definition. GAO reported that the board doesn’t report to Congress on this gap, and has no plan to eliminate it. Said the GAO:
By not investigating all accidental releases that have a fatality, serious injury, substantial property damage, or the potential for a fatality, serious injury, or substantial property damage, CSB continues to fall short of its statutory mandate.