Chemical Safety Board May Tell OSHA, Obama Administration, Off, Officially

Categories: Environment

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The Chemical Safety Board may take the gloves off
We've all seen the video. We couldn't help watching it, how the flames were licking the sides of the building, the smoke was coming out in plumes. We watched it, knowing what was about to happen, but it still came as a surprise when the fireball erupted and the fertilizer plant in that small North Texas town, West, actually exploded.

In the wake of the blast that killed 15 people and left half a town in ruins, it turned out the fertilizer plant itself had been about as unregulated as a plant can get. Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigators hadn't inspected the plant since 1985. The Environmental Protection Agency hadn't been on the scene since 2006, when they issued a $2,300 fine for the facility, leaving the place pretty well unregulated and overlooked.

Well, that was all fine and dandy until the whole place ignited. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board tried to investigate the site in the days after the explosion, but investigators were shut out by the Justice Department's Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigators and the State Fire Marshal's Office, who pretty much destroyed the investigation site, according to CSB investigators.

The CSB isn't what you'd call a powerful agency. Created in the 1990s, the agency was given the power to investigate, but they can't issue fines or citations or even collect evidence from investigation sites. Their investigations can still pack a punch -- the report from the British Petroleum Texas City explosion resulted in a $150 million fine for BP - and then there's the fact that the board can issue rebukes. This week, the agency might actually take it's power to publicly disapprove and use it.

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