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House Committee Requests CSB Investigate Deepwater Horizon
U.S. Chemical Safety Board have joined the probe into the April 20 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion

Acting at the request of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, investigators for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board have joined the probe into the April 20 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion that killed 11 workers and triggered the country's worst offshore oil spill on record.

CSB chairman John S. Bresland released a statement on June 8 confirming that committee chairman Henry Waxman, D-California, and Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee, had requested that the agency investigate the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

"It is my desire that the CSB do everything it can to facilitate the request and to undertake the investigation and determine what factors led to the explosion and failure of the blowout prevention system."

A blowout is defined as an uncontrolled release of either crude oil or natural gas from an oil well after pressure control systems have failed. Speculation about the Deepwater Horizon disaster has focused on methane gas rapidly expanding in the drill column, fueling a explosive ignition.

After burning nearly a day, the drilling platform sank. A continuing oil spill has subsequently dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

"The CSB, a small agency, is currently engaged in numerous investigations comsuming all of our investigation staff," Bresland said. "However, I will be consulting immediately with the rest of the board and with key staff to determine how we may put together a high-performing investigation team."

In particular, Waxman and Stupak asked that the CSB address whether the Deepwater Horizon explosion reflects problems with corporate safety culture, if cost-cutting and budgetary concerns played a role in well design and testing, how "management of change" programs to assess consequences of modifications to process, technology and equipment was applied and was oversight of contractors adequate.

The letter specifically requests that the CSB assign the investigative team that led the inquiry into the 2005 explosion at a Texas City, TX, refinery that killed 15 workers.

CSB evaluates incidents of significance according to ten criteria, including death, injury and environmental damage, assigning each incident a score to determine if an investigation in merited.

"Please score the Deepwater Horizon explosion and provide the Committee with the score and the scoring methodology by Monday, June 14, 2010," the letter states.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. It does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations.

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