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Ranking Member Capito Questions Nominees for Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigations Board

Click here  to watch Ranking Member Capito’s statements and questions from today’s subcommittee hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on the nominations of Stephen A. Owens to be chairperson of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigations Board (CSB) and Catherine J.K Sandoval to be member of the CSB.

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the EPW Committee, questioned the nominees on current staffing issues at CSB, and pressed for increased transparency and coordination with Congress on local investigations.

HIGHLIGHTS:

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CSB, SPECIFICALLY IN WEST VIRGINIA: “Congress established the CSB to investigate facts, conditions, and circumstances, and causes of chemical releases. It's a critical role in determining, certainly for where I live, we're called ‘Chemical Valley’ and for a reason. And so your role is very important to us in my home state.”

ON THE NEED FOR CSB TO ADDRESS OPERATIONS, STAFFING ISSUES: “We do have some questions as to how the CSB has been fulfilling its responsibilities. The EPA inspector report stated that the CSB’s operations are challenged by vacancies and mission critical positions, and an inability to fully use resources Congress has allocated. Further, CSB staff are concerned that leadership, internal review processes, and reported backlogs are impeding CSB’s ability to accomplish this mission. The inspector general also identified significant data vulnerabilities, and so, attracting and maintaining full time staff is difficult…but to only have 12 chemical incident investigators who are now working on 17 open investigations, you know, what happens when we have the next accident? I mean, you could see why everything is so delayed and the timely releases is pushed back.”

KEEPING CONGRESS INFORMED OF LOCAL INCIDENTS, INVESTIGATIONS: “So, one of the questions that came to mind that I have along those lines is keeping us as members of the Senate and also over on the House side apprised as to what's happened with investigations in our own states. I think Senator Wicker was talking about something that is parochial to his state. So, I would ask, I think it came about that we've had an accident, and we were not made aware of what the final findings were until after it was made public to the press. So Mr. Owens, I don't know if we could elicit a promise from you that you'll take into better considerations the updates and final reports before going public. We would certainly like to have the a little bit of a heads up there."

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