“A senior political appointee from the Trump administration still employed at a federal safety agency investigating a fatal chemical disaster at a Georgia poultry plant has been in communication with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a highly unusual move, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has learned from multiple sources in touch with agency insiders. Details of the communication are closely held inside the agency and unknown to POGO. Sources tell POGO that plant workers—many of whom allegedly are undocumented—fear being arrested or monitored by ICE while going to and from witness interviews.
The Chemical Safety Board has long faced criticism for its often-lengthy investigations, and, in recent years, has been short-staffed. According to the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, fiscal year 2020 “appears to be the first in the agency’s 23-year history when no new safety recommendations were issued, compared to a prior average of about 38 per year.” The agency has a record-high backlog of 19 investigations and has issued no investigative reports since December 2019.”