Right-to-Know

As it faces elimination in Trump’s budget, here’s what the Chemical Safety Board does

Firefighters battle a blaze and search for victims of an explosion at the BP plant that killed at least 15 people Wednesday, March 23, 2005, in Texas City, Texas (Photo credit: U.S. Chemical Safety Board).

AUSTIN, TX — “Better than most people, Katherine Rodriguez knows the value of the Chemical Safety Board, and the danger that workers, families, and communities could face if President Trump’s budget proposal to eliminate its minuscule $11 million annual budget is approved by Congress.

She watched her father, Ray Gonzalez, die from an accident that could have been prevented. In September 2004, Gonzalez and two co-workers were doing routine maintenance near a pump at what was then BP’s Texas City refinery. A seal on the pump ruptured, spraying the three men with 500-degree water and steam. All three suffered serious burns. One of the workers, Maurice Moore, died the next day. Gonzalez, who had worked as a pipefitter at the refinery for 33 years, sustained burns on over 80 percent of his body. For more than two months, he underwent painful daily skin cleanings and had several skin graft surgeries. He died after spending his thirty-fifth wedding anniversary in a hospital burn unit.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the accident and cited BP for eight violations of workplace safety rules. In a year that the oil giant earned $17 billion, it paid a fine of $102,500.

Six months after the accident that killed Moore and Gonzalez, a major explosion ripped through the heart of the refinery, killing 15 people and severely injuring more than 170 others. This time, the CSB investigated, and its findings went far beyond those of BP’s internal investigation or even the panel formed by former Secretary of State James Baker.”

— Loren Steffy, Texas Monthly

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