With the Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) website not being updated during the federal government shutdown, CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso used a recent news conference in Washington, D.C. to warn of the shutdown’s affect on his agency.
“We have no ability to respond (to a chemical disaster),” Moure-Eraso said.
Due to 90 percent of its employees being furloughed because of the shutdown, the CSB has suspended its current investigations, including the probe into the devastating fertilizer plant in West, Texas in April. A public meeting to discuss the investigation’s findings to date into the West explosion is scheduled for later this month, but may have to be postponed.
The Board would be unable, at this time, to open an investigation into a new incident.
Three coal mining fatalities in three days – in West Virginia, Illinois and Wyoming, are “extremely troubling,” according to Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Joe Main.
“The fact that that this occurred over the weekend, when there may be a greater expectation an MSHA inspector would not be present, is a red flag,” Main said, who is operating his agency at half-strength during the shutdown.
In the absence of inspectors, the MSHA issued a statement “urging the mining industry to step up its compliance with safety and health regulations under the Mine Safety and Health Act and other applicable laws.”
According to the Huffington Post, the MSHA is contining to investigate emergencies and fatal accidents like those that occurred over the weekend, and it's still carrying out targeted inspections on mining sites that have a history of hazards and accidents.
However, the agency has had to stop its "fours" and "twos" -- quarterly inspections of underground mines and biannual inspections of surface mines mandated by the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969.
According to The Hill, federal programs needed to protect human lives and property are supposed to be unaffected but the shutdown, but some lawmakers said work stoppages at the CSB, EPA and other agencies could leave people at unnecessary risk.
“It’s affecting, clearly, the public health. There’s no doubt about it,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) “This shutdown is harming people. “
A group of Democratic senators called upon Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to call a vote on legislation to restart the government.
The shutdown has halted cleanup operations at more than 500 so-called “superfund” sites” contaminated by hazardous materials, said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
“EPA cannot verify the air we breathe and water we drink meet federal standards,” Boxer said. “This shutdown is real and it’s beginning to cut deep.”