Donald Trump has called for the elimination of the Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency responsible for investigating major chemical-related incidents, such as explosions, fire, spills, leaks and other disasters.
The proposed Chemical Safety Board shutdown is the second time Trump has sought to shutter the agency. He also called for nixing the agency’s entire $11 million budget – one of the smallest budgets in the U.S. and one that could be funded many times over through penalties for safety and environmental violations – in his 2018 budget proposal.
The Chemical Safety Board’s budget is dwarfed by the essential role it plays in elevating our understanding of industrial chemical disasters, what causes them, what their effects are to the public and the environment, and how such accidents can be prevented in the future.
Chemical Safety Board Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland expressed disappointment to find the agency once again on Trump’s regulatory chopping block.
“For over 20 years, the CSB has conducted hundreds of investigations of high consequence chemical incidents, such as the Deepwater Horizon and West Fertilizer disasters,” Chairwoman Sutherland said in a statement. “Our investigations and recommendations have had an enormous effect on improving public safety.”
The Chemical Safety Board played a key role in investigating the explosions at the Arkema chemical plant near Houston during Hurricane Harvey that sickened 15 sheriff’s deputies who fell ill while responding to the blasts. The agency is also investigating the deadly gas rig explosion that killed five men in Oklahoma last month.
There are more than 1,000 industrial chemical accidents each year in the U.S., Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, told Bloomberg. Since it first started operating in 1998, the Chemical Safety Board has responded to incidents of high consequence, such as accidents that cause injury and death, substantial property damage, and considerable damage or threat to the environment and community.