Enforcement and Inspection

U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board Faces Staffing Challenges

In a report dated November 10, 2021, the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) asserted, “The lack of five board members may prevent the [Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB)] from achieving its stated mission to ‘drive chemical safety change through independent investigation to protect people and the environment.’”

The CSB was created by a 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) amendment, which called for a five-member board, including a chairperson. The CSB is responsible for major budgeting decisions, strategic planning and direction, general oversight of the CSB, and approval of investigation reports and studies.

As of September 30, 2021, due to term expirations and a board member resignation, the chairperson is the only remaining board member.

“Having only one board member impairs the function of the CSB, as all functions rest with that one member, which creates internal control vulnerabilities in terms of separation of duties and workload management,” reports the OIG. “Board Order 028, Board Member Roles and Responsibilities, delineates executive and administrative functions of the board based on the [CAA] Amendments of 1990. The order outlines the specific authorities of the chairperson and the duties of the board as a whole. The order does not address a situation when the only member of the board is the chairperson. Regardless, workload limitations arising from one board member attempting to perform the work of five impair the board’s ability to fulfill its responsibilities without risk of internal control concerns.”

Specifically, the OIG reports that regulatory language is unclear if only one board member can constitute the necessary quorum to meet its mission and goals. And, if one member does constitute a quorum, “under the current circumstances, the chairperson would necessarily be exercising both (1) the executive and administrative authorities reserved for the chairperson and (2) the duties of the board. Such a situation, even if permissible, still presents internal control vulnerabilities for the CSB in terms of separation of duties and workload management.”

The Report Consolidation Act of 2000 requires the OIG to prepare an annual statement summarizing what it considers to be the “most serious management and performance challenges facing” the CSB.

The lack of board members was one of three management challenges identified by the OIG in Report No. 20-N-2018, issued July 6, 2020.

The other two challenges identified at that time were:

  • The CSB has not developed policy on board member responsibilities.
  • The CSB must continue operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Regarding a lack of policy for board member responsibilities, this “has been largely addressed by revisions to Board Order 028. The OIG believes the revised order may still lead to internal control issues but has addressed those concerns in the retained challenge regarding a lack of board members.”

Operations during the pandemic continues to be an OIG concern for the CSB.  However, the OIG reports that it is satisfied with the adjustments the CSB has made for continued operations in a pandemic environment.

“It appears progress is being made on this issue, as the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reported on September 22, 2021, that three board member nominations moved forward to the full Senate for consideration and confirmation votes,” states the full OIG report. “As of September 30, 2021, however, the timing for the full Senate confirmation votes was undetermined.  Until the new board members are confirmed, the underlying circumstance has not changed since our last report. Also, the necessary actions for resolving this management challenge continue to lie outside of CSB control. To reduce the impact of this challenge on the CSB’s mission and goals, the president should continue to nominate, and the Senate should confirm, qualified new members until the board is fully staffed.”