CSB Requests Big '05 Budget Increase

Citing expanded investigation activity and a "high level of mission accomplishment," the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) asked Congress for a 15 percent budget increase next year.

If Congress appropriates the request, the CSB budget would grow from its current $8.2 million to $9.45 million in fiscal year 2005.

CSB Board Chairman Carolyn Merritt made the case for the increase at a March 24 hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, HUD and Independent Agencies. The new money would fund:

  • Expanded investigative activity;
  • Increased dissemination of CSB recommendations;
  • A doubling of CSB's emergency fund.

She pointed out that for the first time in its history, the CSB had a full complement of board members, and the agency increased its staffing in the investigations department. As a result, CSB initiated 12 new investigations last year and completed six.

"You can see from the number of investigations begun and completed since 2002 that I have put the main emphasis in that area," said Merritt. "Our [budget] request seeks additional funding to continue to bolster the board's investigative work."

Merritt also indicated that the one of the "main strategic challenges" facing CSB is to gain greater awareness and acceptance of the safety recommendations generated by its investigative work.

Generally, CSB recommendations are sent to individual companies that had a major incident investigation. Merritt wants to transmit the lessons learned to a larger audience.

"That is why we have requested additional funding of $450,000 for fiscal year 2005 to disseminate our safety information in ways that lead to new prevention initiatives." Merritt said the new money would fund the hiring of three new staff members and establish a program devoted to spreading the word about chemical safety.

CSB also wants to hire a new special investigator who will examine the "human factors" that contribute to fatal chemical incidents.

The agency currently has a $447,000 emergency fund to pay for the extraordinary investigative expenses arising from a major unexpected disaster. Merritt told the subcommittee that extraordinary expenses from two major incidents last year exceeded $447,000, and so CSB is seeking to double the size of the fund.

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