(Adds hearings underway in paragraph 5, Waxman recommendations,
June 19 The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is in
disarray and has struggled to finish investigations into serious
accidents at chemical plants and refineries that in one case
killed seven people, according to a draft report by two
The report, prepared by the House Committee on Oversight and
Government Reform and the Committee on Science, Space and
Technology, said CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso and two other
officials have created an "abusive and hostile work environment"
at the board's offices. The report was issued on Thursday.
As a result, experienced investigators have left, according
to the report, and delayed probes such as the one into the 2010
explosion at Tesoro Petroleum Corp's refinery in
Anacortes, Washington, that killed seven.
The committee report also said the board did not issue
urgent recommendations to correct safety risks at Tesoro's
Anacortes refinery as soon as possible due to CSB infighting.
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was
conducting a hearing on Thursday on the CSB's management, said
Chairman Darrel Issa, a California Republican.
In a statement prepared for an appearance before Issa's
committee, Moure-Eraso said the CSB is a small agency carrying
out large, complex investigations. He added that the U.S.
General Accountability Office had faulted the board's management
in a 2008 report.
But since being appointed chairman by President Barack Obama
in 2010, Moure-Eraso said he has worked to improve agency
"I reorganized lines of management to create clear lines of
authority as well as accountability that were virtually
non-existent before 2010," he said. "The result has been to
raise the already high quality of CSB reports and broaden the
scope of the root cause investigations."
The CSB's final report on the Tesoro explosion was issued
earlier this year.
One reason for slow investigations, the report said, was the
board's decision to take on the complex probe of the 2010
explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig contracted to BP
Plc . The CSB's investigation into the explosion,
which killed 11 people and led to a massive oil spill in the
Gulf of Mexico, was its first of an offshore accident.
The board, which has an annual budget of $11 million, has
spent over $4 million on the Deepwater Horizon probe, parts of
which are ongoing.
An unidentified former board member told the committee's
investigators that the board's probe was probably a mistake as
other agencies completed their own inquiries years before the
board issued its first reports on the disaster, according to the
The board has sought publicity by deploying investigators to
chemical accidents, but been less concerned with completing the
probes, the report said.
Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the top Democrat on the
House Energy and Commerce Committee, made recommendations in May
to the CSB, aimed at ending infighting among board members and
improving its operations, according to a committee spokeswoman.
(For link to report click: here)
(Reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston; Editing by Terry Wade,
Andre Grenon and Jeffrey Benkoe)