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Safety

New Chair Took The Helm At Troubled Chemical Safety Board

Oversight: Vanessa Allen Sutherland vowed internal overhaul—and resumption of accident investigations

by Jeff Johnson
December 21, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 49

Sutherland
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Credit: CSB
Credit: CSB

COVER STORY

New Chair Took The Helm At Troubled Chemical Safety Board

The year 2015 was a tumultuous one for the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board. The small independent agency, charged with investigating chemical accidents, faced a harsh inquiry from Congress and a federal watchdog. In April, Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso was forced to resign, and in June, the board’s two top staff members were removed from their positions. Meanwhile, Vanessa Allen Sutherland took over as chair in August and began an internal overhaul, which she aims to complete early next year. As a result of the chaos, the board has not begun an accident investigation since February, its longest inactive period. Over this time, the U.S. has had some 19 chemically related industrial accidents with 16 fatalities, according to watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

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