A federal agency says it’s overburdened and understaffed, and as a result, other investigations will suffer because of its work on the BP oil rig explosion.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has agreed to look into the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
However, it has told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that it will have to end some investigations early and delay others as a result.
Among the investigations that will close early:
- the explosion at the Kleen Energy power plant that killed six people in Middletown, CT, in February, and
- the explosion at the ConAgra Slim Jim facility that killed four people in Garner, NC, in June 2009.
The CSB will delay its investigation of the failure of a 10-inch pipe in a reactor at Silver Eagle Refining in Woods Cross, Utah. The explosion and its blast wave damaged more than 100 homes.
There are about 200 serious workplace chemical incidents each year in the U.S. The CSB usually investigates 12 to 15 of them with a staff of 40 and a $10.6 million budget.
By comparison, the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates plane, train and subway incidents, has 400 employees and an $80 million budget.
The CSB has asked for $2 million to hire more investigators and open a new Houston office.
It has no authority to issue citations or create new regulations, but chemical industry officials say the CSB has been instrumental in uncovering hazards that put workers and communities at risk.