The chairman of the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has resigned at the request of the White House. Members of Congress had called on President Barack Obama to fire Rafael Moure-Eraso, charging that he mismanaged the small independent agency that investigates accidents at chemical facilities and refineries.
Moure-Eraso, who had just three months left in his five-year term as head of CSB, announced his resignation to staff in an e-mail sent on Thursday evening. “Effective March 26, 2015, at 5:00 PM, I have submitted my resignation as Chairperson of the CSB to President Barack Obama. It has been a privilege to serve the agency since June 2010,” the e-mail says.
“My wishes are for the continued success and productivity of the Board. I am forever grateful for the hard work of the agency that has led to so many successes over the past five years,” Moure-Eraso writes.
His tenure was marked by turmoil at the agency and charges that he delayed investigations and created a toxic work environment that led to low employee morale and staff attrition.
Moure-Eraso’s departure was welcome news on Capitol Hill.
“The Chemical Safety Board is in desperate need of new leadership and we are pleased that the President has recognized the importance of making key changes,” say Reps. Jason E. Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, in a joint statement.
“Dr. Moure-Eraso’s mismanagement of the CSB, abuse of power, employee retaliation, and lack of honesty in his communications with Congress are among the many reasons why his resignation is the right next step for this federal agency,” the lawmakers add.
The five-member CSB panel is left with three Senate-confirmed members. Obama has nominated Vanessa Allen Sutherland, a Department of Transportation lawyer, to become the board’s next chief. Obama has also nominated chemist Kristen Kulinowski, a staff member at think tank Science & Technology Policy Institute, to replace Mark Griffon, a CSB member whose term expires in June.
Senate confirmation hearings have not been scheduled for either nominee.