NGOs sue US Chemical Safety Board

02.01.2018 -

Led by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, several non-profit organizations are suing the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) for omissions on emissions – more precisely, for not creating a national reporting system to collect data on air pollution emissions from accidents.

The reporting system is called for under the US Clean Air Act of 1990, which created the board. In 2009, the CSB, an independent federal agency, proposed parameters for reporting, but to date no dedicated system has been put in place, mainly due to opposition from within the industry and the high cost of investigating and reporting amid insufficient funding.

To be able to do its work at all, the CSB currently tracks incidents using media reports in combination with data collected by the US Coast Guard National Response Center and a mix of other sources of accident information.

According to news reports, the NGOs’ arguments in the lawsuit largely mirror the CSB’s parameters. That a system will ever be created, however, looks doubtful, observers say, as even the continued existence of the CSB has been thrown into doubt.

Shortly after taking office last year, the administration of President Donald Trump threatened to abolish the board as well as the Clean Air Act itself, and efforts in this direction are already under way.

A coalition of attorneys general from 16 Democrat-led states announced last spring they would sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its plans for a 2-month delay in implementing the Obama administration’s updated Chemical Accident Safety rule.

The number and severity of accidents over the past decade point up the urgent need to update the safety and security of the nation's chemical facilities, the attorneys generals said at the time. In the ensuing months, no progress in dealing with the progress was publicly noted.

Likewise, in the months following the explosion and inundation at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, during Hurricane Harvey last Augus, the CSB announced plans to investigate. On this front, too, the silence has been profound. First responders to the alarm at the plant meanwhile are suing the French-based chemical producer for alleged exposure to toxic fumes.