Chaos and Coup at Chemical Safety Board

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Rick Engler (photo: Chemical Safety Board)

There’s been a coup in Washington, but it’s not quite the kind—or level of authority—that would be featured in a Hollywood movie.


The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), which investigates industrial chemical accidents at refineries, factories, and other facilities, has experienced an unusual amount of chaos and power grabbing this month, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).


Documents obtained by PEER revealed that one CSB member, Rick Engler, claimed to have taken over the agency, which has been without a leader since its embattled chairman, Rafael Moure-Eraso, resigned in March. With only three seats filled on the five-member board, Engler reportedly used the support of outgoing board member Mark Griffon to designate himself “Board Member Delegated Interim Executive and Administrative Authority.” The board’s third member, Manuel “Manny” Ehrlich, objected to Engler’s power grab, according to PEER, suggesting that he and Engler jointly administer the board.


Engler then ordered the suspension of CSB’s entire executive staff, including Managing Director Daniel Horowitz and General Counsel Richard Loeb, putting them on administrative leave. The staffers were marched out of the building under armed guard and barred from returning or talking to other CSB staff.


 Engler’s explanation for the action was that he’d ordered an internal investigation into “possible misconduct” that had been found earlier by the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general and a House committee. Those reports cited Moure-Eraso’s “autocratic” approach, use of private email, and staff complaints of a “toxic work environment,” according to PEER.


But in carrying out his actions, Engler “presided over the escalation from a toxic work environment to thermonuclear war,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch wrote. “These stale and frankly trivial matters do not merit Egyptian-style martial-law retribution meted out here.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Coup D’ etat and Purge Befalls Chemical Safety Board (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)

PEER Alleges Coup D’etat and Purge at Chemical Safety Board (Corporate Crime Reporter)

Activist Named To Workplace Accident Panel (by James O’Neill, The Record)

Chemical Safety Chairman Resigns: Who Is Rafael Moure-Eraso? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

Chemical Safety Board Chair Accused of Whistleblower Retaliation and Creating a “Toxic Environment” (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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