Federal agencies

Chemical Safety Board chair: ‘It would be a shame if we didn’t continue’

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Photo: Chemical Safety Board

Washington – The Chemical Safety Board has been in communication with Congress since being targeted for elimination in the Trump administration’s budget blueprint, and the agency is planning additional consultations in the future, agency Chairperson Vanessa A. Sutherland said April 13 during a CSB public meeting.

“We do expect to continue to work with them and engage them to not only explain the work that we do and the mission that we do, but to submit a budget that we think would be able to allow us to operate effectively in [fiscal year 2018] to carry out the mission,” Sutherland said.

Released March 16, the Trump administration’s budget proposal would cut $54 billion in funding to various segments of the federal government while eliminating funding for 19 independent agencies, including CSB – the only agency among that group that operates under a safety mandate.

Sutherland said she met with the Office of Management and Budget in March to discuss the proposal, affirming that CSB has operated under a “flat” budget of about $12 million for the past several years.

The board recently published a two-page summary of its overall merits, as well as a video highlighting its 2016 accomplishments.

According to the document, Roles and Responsibilities of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, CSB has investigated more than 130 major chemical incidents in its history and issued 788 safety recommendations – of which 78 percent have been closed. During the meeting, Sutherland said CSB has closed 36 recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General in the past 18 months.

“We also continue to just publish great work,” Sutherland said. “Our investigations are coming out. Most of those investigative products have an accompanying safety video, which we know people use very often in training. We plan to summarize our strategic plan, which we just published, ironically, this year, for 2017 to 2021. We plan to share that with people, as well – what our vision would be for five years.”

Sutherland said CSB has received consistent support from stakeholders since the announcement, which “illustrates our value and the impact that we’ve had.”

Among those voicing their support for the agency are 10 organizations that sent letters April 7 to House and Senate budget leaders requesting that CSB funding hold steady at $11 million. The organizations include the National Safety Council, the American Chemical Society, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the American Society of Safety Engineers and the National Fire Protection Association.

In the letter, the groups state that CSB issues safety reports, bulletins and videos that are “used and cited by the industrial community, academia, professional associations, first responders, labor, and community leaders.” The agency’s YouTube channel has almost 20,000 followers, and its videos have been viewed about 6.4 million times.

Sutherland said the agency’s goal is to communicate its value “because it is a truly impactful body of work that we’ve done, and I think it would be a shame if we didn’t continue.”

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