Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board--Membership Fees
B-305095, Dec 8, 2005
The United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (Board) has requested our decision on whether it may pay the membership fee required for the Board to become a Corporate Associate of the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (Center). Letter from Christopher W. Warner, General Counsel, U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, to Anthony Gamboa, General Counsel, U.S. Government Accountability Office, April 20, 2005 (Warner Letter). The Board believes that membership in the Center could assist it in carrying out its statutory authorities. We conclude that the Board's appropriations are available to pay the Center's membership fee.
B-305095, Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board--Membership Fees, December 8, 2005
The United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (Board) appropriation is available to pay the membership fee for the Board to become a Corporate Associate member of the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (Center). An agency may use its appropriation to pay fees for an agency's membership in a private association when the membership furthers the purpose of the appropriation. The Board's salaries and expenses appropriation is available for carrying out activities pursuant to section 112(r)(6) of the Clean Air Act. The Board has determined that a corporate membership in the Center will provide the Board access to facilities, experts, and research that will assist the Board in carrying out its section 112(r)(6) responsibilities. Therefore, GAO does not object to the Board using its appropriation to pay the Center's Corporate Associate fee.
The United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (Board) has requested our decision on whether it may pay the membership fee required for the Board to become a Corporate Associate of the Risk Management and
The Board was established as an independent agency by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Pub. L. No. 101-549, title III, sect. 301, 104 Stat. 2399, 2565 (
The Center has invited the Board to become a Corporate Associate. Letter from Paul R. Kleindorfer and Howard Kunreuther, Co-Directors, Wharton Risk Management and
The annual fee for a Corporate Associate membership is $10,000. Wharton Letter. The Board believes that joining the Center would aid it in accomplishing its mission, and it asks if its appropriated funds are available to pay the Center's membership fee.
The general rule regarding membership fees is that an agency may use its appropriation to pay for an agency membership in a private association when the membership furthers the purpose of the appropriation. 53 Comp. Gen. 429, 431 (1973); B-302548,
We have not objected to the use of appropriations to pay membership fees under circumstances similar to those under consideration here. For example, in 61 Comp. Gen. 542 (1982), we held that the
The Board's appropriation is available [f]or necessary expenses in carrying out activities pursuant to section 112(r)(6) of the Clean Air Act, as amended . . . $9,100,000. Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Pub. L. No. 108-447, div. I, title III, 118 Stat. 2809, 3322 (
The Board is authorized to conduct research and studies with respect to the potential for accidental releases, whether or not an accidental release has occurred, where there is evidence which indicates the presence of a potential hazard or hazards. To the extent practicable, the Board shall conduct such studies in cooperation with other
Federal agencies having emergency response authorities, State and local governmental agencies and associations and organizations from the industrial, commercial, and nonprofit sectors.
42 U.S.C. sect. 7412(r)(6)(F) (emphasis added).
The Center conducts a program of basic and applied research to promote effective policies and programs related to events with catastrophic consequences, which would include accidental chemical releases. Wharton Letter. Its research focuses on the use of accident history data and the role of market mechanisms such as third-party inspections to evaluate alternative risk management approaches.
Moreover, Center membership could better enable the Board to make recommendations to the Congress, governmental agencies, and other interested persons concerned with chemical safety, regarding measures to reduce the likelihood or the consequences of accidental chemical releases and to propose corrective steps to make chemical production, processing, handling, and storage as safe and free from risk of injury as possible. 42 U.S.C. sect. 7412(r)(6)(C)(ii). The Board points out that membership would give it unique access to some of the most current and sophisticated research on risk management science and policy, which the agency could use to focus its prevention and research activities on areas where there is the greatest need or the greatest potential for benefit. Warner Letter.
The Board is currently examining how insurers can be better used as agents for accident and risk reduction in the chemical industry. Warner Letter. One of the Center's key areas of investigation is how insurance can be used in dealing with environmental hazard risk through public and private partnerships.
For the reasons stated above, we concur with the Board's determination that becoming a Corporate Associate in the Center could facilitate the carrying out of its responsibilities under section 112(r)(6)(C) of the Clean Air Act. Accordingly, we conclude that the Board's salaries and expenses appropriation, which is expressly
available for carrying out the Board's activities pursuant to section 112 of the Clean
Air Act, is available to pay the membership fee to become a Corporate Associate member.
Anthony H. Gamboa
 For a complete discussion of the availability of appropriated funds to pay membership fees, see U.S. Government Accountability Office, Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, vol. 1, 3rd ed., GAO-04-261SP at 4-234 (Washington, D.C.: January 2004).