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Chemical Safety Board Chief Steps Down

Investigations: Rafael Moure-Eraso resigns under White House pressure, charges of mismanagement

by Glenn Hess
April 2, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 14

Credit: CSB
CSB is without a chair now that Moure-Eraso is gone.
Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board from 2010 to March 2015.
Credit: CSB
CSB is without a chair now that Moure-Eraso is gone.

The chairman of the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has resigned at the request of the White House. Members of Congress had called on President Barack Obama to fire Rafael Moure-Eraso, charging that he mismanaged the independent agency that investigates accidents at chemical facilities.

Moure-Eraso, who had just three months left in his five-year term as head of CSB, announced his resignation to staff in an e-mail on March 26. “It has been a privilege to serve the agency since June 2010,” the e-mail said.

“My wishes are for the continued success and productivity of the Board. I am forever grateful for the hard work of the agency that has led to so many successes over the past five years,” Moure-Eraso wrote.

His tenure was marked by turmoil at the agency and charges that he delayed investigations and created a toxic work environment that led to low employee morale and staff attrition.

House lawmakers have signaled that they intend to continue scrutinizing CSB. In a March 27 letter, the leaders of the Energy & Commerce Committee asked the remaining three board members to explain a series of recent controversial management decisions.

In January, for instance, the board consolidated authority in the chairman’s office over personnel, spending, investigations, communications, and general administration of CSB.

“We request your assistance to help the committee understand recent board actions and related decisions to assess how … they may affect future CSB mission performance, and what should be done to ensure the appropriate governance of the agency,” wrote Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the panel’s chairman, and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), its ranking member.

The five-member CSB panel has two vacant seats. Obama has nominated Vanessa Allen Sutherland, a Department of Transportation lawyer, to become the board’s next chief. Obama has also nominated chemist Kristen M. Kulinowski, a staff member at think tank Science & Technology Policy Institute, to replace Beth J. Rosenberg, who resigned from her position last year.

The White House plans to appoint CSB member Manuel Ehrlich as interim chairman pending the Senate’s confirmation of Sutherland.



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