President Donald Trump’s recent 2018 budget proposal calls for defunding the 19-year-old Chemical Safety Board (CSB), a federally-funded independent agency tasked with investigating industrial chemical accidents, which, in terms of government spending, has a budget of $11 million budget and staff of 40.
While the Chemical Safety Board doesn’t have the authority to penalize companies, it is clear that its findings were instrumental in educating both the industry and government agencies about the dangers of storing ammonium nitrate. But even with all the good the board does to protect workers, the public and property, the agency currently finds itself under fire.
Of all the independent agencies and commissions that would be cut in the proposed budget, the only one that addresses public safety is the Chemical Safety Board. The board was quick to point that out in a PDF it recently posted on its website explaining the agency’s roles and responsibilities: “The Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again states that ‘A budget that puts America first must make the safety of our people its number one priority – because without safety, there can be no prosperity.’”
The American Society of Safety Engineers recently weighed in with its support of the Chemical Safety Board. In a written statement, Tom Cecich, president of the ASSE, said: “Understanding the cause of a serious incident benefits all of us. While we understand this administration aims to make the government leaner, more effective and more accountable, removing the only federal agency solely dedicated to investigating chemical incidents hurts the efforts to build stronger manufacturing capabilities.”
Additionally, Michael Wright, director of health, safety and environment for the United Steelworkers told The Nation that the labor union not only wants to see the board continue to be funded but also to see it get additional funding to be able to do even more investigations.
The Chemical Safety Board’s job is not only to make recommendations about industry but government as well. In the West Fertilizer explosion, the board found regulatory areas from both OSHA and the EPA that needed improvement to help avoid a similar disaster elsewhere.