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Trump Bid to Defund Chemical Safety Board Questioned

March 17, 2017
Image courtesy of Chemical Safety Board (CSB)
Image courtesy of Chemical Safety Board (CSB)

As President Donald J. Trump’s proposed budget for the fiscal year of 2018 attempts to cut off the Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) $12 million in annual funding, the move is generating criticism from observers in industry and labor who assert the change would have disastrous results.

“If you want to put the American people in danger, this is the way to do it,” former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Christine Todd Whitman, commenting on the move to cut the agency’s budget, told Reuters. “The chemical industry has fought back from the beginning.”

A statement released by the CSB chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland on Thursday said the agency was “disappointed” by President Trump’s proposal, asserting that the CSB’s investigations and recommendations “have had an enormous impact” on the safety of the public

“Our recommendations have resulted in banned natural gas blows in Connecticut, an improved fire code in New York City, and increased public safety at oil and gas sites across Mississippi. The CSB has been able to accomplish all of this with a small and limited budget,” wrote Sutherland. The American public is safer today as a result of the work of the dedicated and professional staff of the CSB. As this process moves forward, we hope that the important mission of this agency will be preserved.”

Director of the Mark Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center at Texas A&M University M. Sam Mannan said in a Bloomberg report that the agency’s efforts have resulted in “landmark” improvements in industry practices, resulting from “a measly $10 million dollars, in terms of the federal budget.”

Some industry groups approached the topic somewhat optimistically, while others remained mum for the time being.

A spokesperson for the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Bloomberg, stating that the organization was examine how the proposed defunding would impact its ranks. The American Petroleum Institute (API) said in a statement to Reuters that it was looking “forward to working with the administration and Congress as all of these issues work their way through the budget process.”

One company official interviewed by Bloomberg voiced concerns about the proposed shuttering of the watchdog.

“I don’t think anyone in the industry wants to see the Chemical Safety Board abolished,” Stephen Brown, vice president of Tesoro Corp., an oil refiner that was investigated by the CSB in 2014, said in a telephone interview with the news organization. “The goal is a fully functional, professional investigative body that approaches things in a professional manner with integrity.”

The CSB does not issue fines or create rules or laws.

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