STATEMENT SENATOR FRANK R. LAUTENBERG
ON THE NOMINATIONS OF DR. ISADORE ROSENTHAL AND DR. ANDREA KIDD TAYLOR
THE CHEMICAL SAFETY AND HAZARD INVESTIGATION BOARD

I would like to start by thanking the Chairman for holding this markup on such short notice. His great effort on behalf of these nominations is a sign of the wide support for the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

I welcome all three of you, but I am especially glad to see Dr. Taylor and Dr. Rosenthal here. Your presence is a sign that the Board is becoming a well established entity. That is a good sign for workers, for industry, and for the environment. It's a good sign for the country.

Congress created the Chemical Safety Board in the 1990 Clean Air Act, modeling it after the National Transportation Safety Board. I became especially interested in the Board after a tragic explosion that took the lives of five men just a few miles from my house in 1995. At the time of the explosion at Napp Technologies, adequate funds had never been appropriated to the Board, nor had members been appointed.

Our one response to such tragedies in those days was enforcement. Don't get me wrong -- tough and fair enforcement is essential to deterrence. But it doesn't always get to the root of the problem Enforcement alone can not prevent future tragedies.

Identifying root causes to chemical accidents, and recommending measures to prevent them are an essential part of the equation as well. That's what the Board is for.

I am very proud to have offered the amendment that provided the Board its first appropriations in Fiscal Year 1998. I am proud, as well, to have negotiated an increase in the Board's appropriations to $6.5 million -- an increase which was included in the VA-HUD conference report. The Board is a very new organization. But for a new organization it's off to a great start.

The Board opened its doors for business on Monday, January 5th, 1998 On Wednesday of that week, an explosion at an explosives plant near Reno claimed the lives of four workers and injured six others. On Friday of that week, the Board was at the site of the accident, starting its investigation. The Board published its report of that accident last month.

The report has been widely acclaimed and makes recommendations that should make the manufacture of explosives much safer.

In all, the Board has initiated investigations of six accidents and is currently reviewing 13 other incidents. These are accidents that tragically resulted in 30 deaths in 16 states. Among them are two in New Jersey.

One occurred last April in Paterson, my home town, when an explosion ripped through the Morton Specialty Chemical Company, injuring nine workers, two seriously. I understand the Board has completed the first phase of that investigation.

The second New Jersey accident occurred in August at RBH Dispersions in Middlesex, mortally injuring one worker. Unfortunately, because the Board is just starting up -- it isn't yet fully staffed, it isn't yet fully funded -- it was unable to launch a full investigation and will only be able to review OSHA's investigation.

But all in all, I would say the Board is off to a great start. I only wish that start had been eight years ago, instead of eight months ago.

Finally, I think it's significant that we find before us today both Dr. Taylor, with her years of experience in the labor movement, and Dr. Rosenthal, with his decades of experience in the chemical industry.

I think it's significant that they have both been endorsed by the chemical industry and labor. It shows what many of us believe whether Democrat or Republican, industry or labor a fully functioning Chemical Safety Board will be as good for the chemical industry as it will be for the employees and neighbors of the industry.