EPA Chemical Board Meets Secretly, Ditches Investigations

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Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board members broke federal Government in the Sunshine Act requirements when they voted to terminate five investigations on which they’d already spent $800,000, according to a new report from the EPA Office of Inspector General.

Board member Manuel Ehrlich proposed nixing the investigations without advance public notice or giving an explanation at a January meeting in Richmond, California, violating open meetings laws and catching the public and another board member by surprise, the IG said. The CSB had already spent between $139,000 and $302,000 on each of the five investigations, the IG determined. The proposal passed, 2-1.

“CSB Board members and staff were unable to explain why the motion was not included in the public meeting announcement,” the IG said. “By not announcing a motion that included terminating investigations, CSB kept the public uninformed of its planned actions to end the investigations, in violation of the Sunshine Act and the act’s transparency goals.”

The federal government-wide Sunshine Act required the board to publicize the meeting and its subject matter through the federal registrar 10 days in advance, and the board’s own regulations required it to provide a full agenda to all board members two weeks in advance, the IG noted.

The IG discovered most of the investigators who started the five and six-year-old cases have since left CSB, a driving factor in the board member’s proposal to close the cases.

CSB describes itself on its website as “an independent federal agency investigating chemical accidents to protect workers, the public, and the environment.”

EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins also dinged CSB officials in January for conducting official business on non-government email accounts. Elkins concluded that CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso, General Counsel Richard Loeb, and CSB Managing Director Daniel Horowitz conducted official CSB business on non-government email accounts.

The IG found CSB officials “did not ensure that official business they conducted on non-governmental email systems was preserved on agency systems and that they purposefully employed non-governmental systems so certain CSB business did not appear on CSB systems,” according to Elkins’ Jan. 16 letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

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