CSB Chairman Testifies Before Senate Environment Subcommittee

U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairman Carolyn W. Merritt testified as the first witness yesterday in a Senate hearing entitled, “Lessons Learned from Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Investigations, Including Texas City, Texas.”

The meeting was the first hearing of the CSB oversight committee on chemical process safety issues since the establishment of the agency in 1998, and was convened by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security, and Water Quality, chaired by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ). Merritt gave the opening testimony on the first of two panels.

Other witnesses included Kim Nibarger, health and safety specialist with the United Steelworkers; Scott Berger, director of the Center for Chemical Process Safety; Timothy R. Gablehouse, president of the National Association of State Title III Program Officials; Steve Arendt, vice president of ABS Consulting; and Linda Hunnings, widow of Texas City victim Jim Hunnings.

"Thorough implementation of existing OSHA and EPA process safety rules would prevent a number of tragic accidents, including the one in Texas City," Merritt said in her testimony. "Like other refineries, the Texas City facility was covered under both the OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM) standard and the EPA Risk Management Program (RMP) rule."

Merritt urged the committee to compare the CSB's existing statutory authorities with those of the older and more established National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). She pointed specifically to the authorities to preserve and test evidence, rapidly access the sites of chemical releases, and receive relevant records and information from other agencies.

Further information, including webcast information, is available from the committee Web site, http://epw.senate.gov. Merritt's written testimony is available at http://www.csb.gov/news_releases/docs/MerrittSenateEPW7-10-07Written.pdf.

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