In­dus­try watch­dog

Houston Chronicle - - FROM THE COVER -

Re­gard­ing “Safety board faces un­clear fu­ture” (Page A1, Satur­day), the story ac­cu­rately de­scribes the se­ri­ous chal­lenges now fac­ing the U.S. Chem­i­cal Safety Board, the in­de­pen­dent fed­eral agency that in­ves­ti­gates in­dus­trial chem­i­cal dis­as­ters.

It is very re­gret­table that the out­go­ing chair­man, Vanessa Allen Suther­land, is now at­tempt­ing to blame the prior man­age­ment team for her own ap­par­ent in­abil­ity to hire and re­tain CSB in­ves­ti­ga­tors, about 40 per­cent of whom have quit dur­ing her brief ten­ure with no re­place­ments in sight. From 2010-15, when I was chair­man, the CSB had the usual turnover of fed­eral per­son­nel, but all the in­ves­ti­ga­tors who left were promptly re­placed and the agency ran at full strength.

We ben­e­fited dur­ing that time from a large ros­ter of ex­pe­ri­enced and ded­i­cated in­ves­ti­ga­tors, tal­ented sleuths who un­cov­ered the root causes — tech­ni­cal, hu­man, and or­ga­ni­za­tional — of fa­tal chem­i­cal ac­ci­dents like those at BP Texas City, West Fer­til­izer and DuPont in La Porte. Many of these public ser­vants have now fled the agency, not due to bud­get threats but be­cause of cur­rent man­age­ment mis­treat­ment and a per­ceived in­dif­fer­ence to­ward the mis­sion.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion should with­draw its op­po­si­tion to fund­ing the CSB and ap­point new mem­bers who value root-cause in­ves­ti­ga­tions of in­dus­trial dis­as­ters. The safety of com­mu­ni­ties across Texas and around the coun­try might de­pend on it.

Rafael Moure-Eraso, Low­ell, Mass.

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