Congressman DeSaulnier calls on Chemical Safety Board members to resign

Lawmakers seek federal probe into former Chemical Safety Board chairman
Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafel Moure-Eraso.

Local Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) has called for the resignations of two top officials with the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) — the federal agency that investigated the Chevron refinery fire of 2012 — citing gross mismanagement and the use of secretive emails to conduct government business.

CSB Chairman Rafel Moure-Eraso, Board Member Manny Erlich and an agency attorney are accused of purposefully using personal email accounts to avoid public scrutiny, a violation of the Federal Records Act, according to a scathing report from the Environmental Protection Agency Inspector General’s Office (OIG).

The inspector’s report also exposed numerous management problems at CSB, including employee morale issues. And members of House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform lambasted a controversial order on Jan. 28 to overhaul agency operating and contracting rules and consolidate board power with Moure-Eraso, which they said has stripped the agency of the proper checks and balances.

Representatives additionally criticized CSB’s termination of three pending accident investigations and the implementation of prior OIG and Oversight Committee recommendations.

DeSaulnier said the violations amount to a lack of credibility at CSB, which investigates oil and chemical plant accidents. DeSaulnier told the Contra Costa Times his call for resignations was not directly related to the Chevron refinery investigation, but added the “incompetence and arrogance” has undermined the agency’s reputation. Reforms at CSB must begin with these resignations, he said.

“Typically you have to scratch around the surface to uncover arrogance and incompetence, but here it is out in daylight,” said DeSaulnier, who has in the past served on the California Air Resources Board and Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

At a Wednesday congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., House of Representatives Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah said CSB has “gone off the rails.”

Chaffetz did not mince words when implicating Moure-Eraso as the main driver of the problems.

“There is something rotten to its core, and it’s you,” Chaffetz told the chairman.

Chairman Moure-Eraso defended his actions Wednesday, saying the personal emails used have been preserved as official records. He challenged criticisms of employee morale by criticizing the consulting company hired to assess CSB culture, and also touted agency successes under his tenure, such as increased investigatory efficiency.