Thursday, July 16, 2015

CSB Meeting Announced for Next Week - Caribbean Petroleum

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) published a meeting notice in today’s Federal Register (80 FR 42085-42086) for a public meeting to be held in Washington, DC on July 22nd, 2015. The status of several on-going investigations will be discussed, including the final report on the Caribbean Petroleum accident.


According to the CSB web site the following topics will be addressed:

Updates on current CSB investigations;
The final report, recommendations, and public comments received on the Caribbean Petroleum incident, a massive fire at an oil storage facility in Puerto Rico in 2009.  The Board may then vote on the Caribbean Petroleum report;
A staff presentation on the calendared recommendation to BP resulting from the CSB’s investigation into the 2005 BP America refinery explosion in Texas City, TX; and
Staff reports on recommendations related to California’s draft Process Safety Management rules and laboratory safety guidelines from the American Chemical Society.

The meeting is open to the public and there is no mention of any requirements for advanced registration. For those not able to attend in person there will be a phone participation option. After the Board completes the agenda items there will be time for public statements limited to 5 minutes or less. Written statements for the record may be submitted at the meeting or provided to Hillary J. Cohen, Communications Manager,

Other Issues

People who have been following the CSB will be well aware of numerous personnel issues that have been plaguing the Board for the last couple of years. They are now down to just two active members (a new Chair and another new member have been nominated and are going through the Senate confirmation process). This combined with conflicts between the Board and the CSB staff has undoubtedly affected the performance of the CSB.

Of much more concern have been the allegations of misconduct of some of the past and current Board members. More recently there have been allegations of contract improprieties perpetrated by the self-declared “interim executive and administrative authority”. Exacerbating these issues is the open conflict between the two remaining Board members. NOTE: Thanks to Richard Rosera for pointing me at these last two articles.

The underfunded CSB has a good historical record of investigating serious chemical process and handling accidents, determining root causes of those accidents and turning that information into both specific and broad industry guidelines for improving chemical process safety. The current problems need to be resolved before they have a permanent effect on the Board’s ability to perform its valuable and necessary function.

I am not generally a big fan of congressional investigations, but these problems have reached the point where congressional oversight is probably going to be the only thing that can prevent some of the current calls for the disbanding of the Board to be put into operation.

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