Obama to ask chairman of troubled Chemical Safety Board to resign

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

President Obama reportedly plans to ask the head of the Chemical Safety Board — the federal agency that investigated the Chevron refinery fire of 2012 — to resign amid allegations of gross mismanagement and the use of secretive emails to conduct government business.

Local Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) was among the first to call for CSB Chairman Rafel Moure-Eraso and others to step down following a scathing report from the Environmental Protection Agency Inspector General’s Office (OIG) that threatened the watchdog agency’s credibility.

On March 18, 14 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Members issued a bipartisan letter to President Obama requesting that he remove Moure-Eraso as well as two senior staff members from office (see letter).

“The Chemical Safety Board is in desperate need of new leadership and we are pleased that the President has recognized the importance of making key changes,” said the committee’s ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., in a statement.

The letter followed the release of an independent analysis of the CSB, which found a “lack of trust in senior leadership, poor communication, ineffective goal setting, lack of standard procedure, and lack of follow up by senior leadership,” Cummings’ statement added (read full report here).

Moure-Eraso, along with CSB 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. The report also exposed numerous management problems at CSB, including employee morale issues.

House committee members were also upset over Moure-Eraso’s controversial order on Jan. 28 to overhaul agency operating and contracting rules and consolidate board power with himself, which they said stripped the agency of the proper checks and balances.

DeSaulnier said credibility needs to be restored at CSB, which investigates oil and chemical plant accidents.

“I am pleased President Obama recognizes the need for reform of the agency and is taking this necessary step,” Congressman  DeSaulnier said in a statement.

The agency has “gone off the rails,” said House of Representatives Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

“There is something rotten to its core, and it’s you,” Chaffetz told Moure-Eraso during a recent hearing.

The chairman has said that his personal emails have been preserved as official records, and he has challenged criticisms and cited successes under his tenure.