Reprinted from The New York Times by Steve Early on July 24, 2017.
The United States Chemical Safety Board is a federal watchdog with more bark than bite. It has five board members, a tiny staff of less than 50 and a budget of some $11 million a year. Its mission is to investigate fires and explosions in oil refineries and chemical plants.
The board can’t impose financial penalties for corporate misbehavior and has no rules of its own to enforce. It merely issues fact-finding reports, with accompanying technical and policy recommendations. Labor and management can use this valuable information to avoid future accidents, or ignore it.
But its bark can be effective. The board’s reports have their own power, laying bare corporate negligence or ineptitude, and indentifyng hazards that communities may not realize are in their own backyards.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the board could soon be gone, despite its consultative approach and reliance on voluntary compliance. …