CSB Votes for 'Urgent Internal' Reforms

Under fire from some congressional committees, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board changed its rules to require at least four public meetings in Washington, D.C., annually and allow members to add agenda items.

Aiming to improve what is called its "public transparency and accountability and ability to help prevent chemical disasters," the U.S. Chemical Safety Board changed its internal rules June 24 to require at least four public meetings in Washington, D.C., annually and allow members, not just the chairman, to add agenda items for its public meetings.

It's not unusual for federal agencies charged with regulating safety or environmental protection compliance to be criticized by members of Congress, but the criticism of CSB was harsher. The agency's announcement said it "took urgent action," adding that the actions responded to "calls for reform from the Inspector General, four Congressional Committees, and industry and labor stakeholders and aligns with President Obama's initiatives for open government."

Two board members voted to approve these reforms:

  • The CSB chairperson must now schedule at least four public meetings in Washington, D.C. each year, in addition to the CSB meetings in communities affected by chemical disasters.
  • Calendared notation votes must now be considered at a public meeting within 90 days of the calendaring action. CSB conducts some business through "notation voting" so board members can vote to approve, disapprove, or "calendar" a notation item for discussion at a public meeting. Some have recently been used "to bury discussion of CSB management problems and investigation issues – many of which have been raised by the EPA Inspector General," according to the CSB announcement.
  • CSB public business meetings will include a review of current investigations and action plan progress, a change from recent meetings.
  • Other board members, not just the chair, can add agenda items to the agenda for discussion at public meetings.

"Adoption of these reforms will promote the CSB's active engagement with stakeholders, including communities, industry, labor, scientific organizations, and environmental constituencies. Our action today responds to the appropriate chorus of calls for positive changes at the CSB," said board member Mark Griffin, who has been voted executive authority. (Suggesting more change is imminent, the agency's release said Griffin "voted for this urgent notation item on the last day of his five year term.")

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