US chemical safety board is shuttered by shutdown

03 October 2013 17:48  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has been shut down, and most of its investigative and operations staff have been furloughed, a top official said on Thursday as the federal government’s partial shutdown takes broader effect.

CSB managing director and chief spokesman Daniel Horowitz said that the agency has been “totally affected by the shutdown”.

“All of our investigations have been suspended and about 35 of our 38 employees have been furloughed,” Horowitz said, with just himself and two other staffers in the CSB offices.

Chartered by Congress as an independent federal agency, CSB is charged with investigating major chemical sector accidents. Although technically independent, the CSB still relies on Congress for its funding.

The board’s annual budget last year was $10.5bn (€7.8bn), Horowitz said.

But those funds are not provided to CSB in a lump sum at the beginning of each fiscal year but instead are parcelled out by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) through the year.

Horowitz said that CSB has some $800,000 in an emergency reserve to cover investigations of major incidents, but those funds cannot be used to pay salaries or otherwise cover the board’s routine operations.

The partial federal shutdown began on Tuesday after the government’s authority to spend money expired at midnight Eastern Time on Monday.

Republicans in the House are pitted against majority Democrats in the Senate and President Barack Obama in a long-running dispute about spending.

Republicans in the House - where by law authority for spending resides - are pressing Obama and Senate Democrats for spending cuts in exchange for House approval of a continuing resolution (CR), a measure that would extend current federal spending levels for a limited time.

House Republicans also want to defund or delay implementation of Obama’s signature health care programme, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The two sides met Wednesday night at the White House but without reaching any agreement on how to proceed.

($1 = €0.74)

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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