The new CSB chairman takes over for John S. Bresland, who remains a member of the board. Unlike Bresland, a former process engineer and plant manager, Moure-Eraso does not come directly from a chemical plant or have an extensive corporate background.
A naturalized citizen from Colombia, Moure-Eraso has been a professor for more than 20 years at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell's School of Health and Environment. He has master's and bachelor's degrees in chemical engineering and a doctorate in environmental health. Prior to his academic career, Moure-Eraso worked as an industrial hygienist for union groups including the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers.
Moure-Eraso said he has "high hopes" for the scientific panel review. While eliminating the use of highly toxic chemicals is generally the safest route for chemical plants, Moure-Eraso said, it's not always possible.
"It's very hard in engineering to have a proposition that one size fits all," he said. "You choose the one that is best for your situation."
Moure-Eraso said there are a variety of reasons the board hasn't completed its Bayer report yet, including an increased number of investigations around the country and Bayer's efforts to block board access or public release of some relevant information.
"That was a bogus claim," he said of Bayer's secrecy campaign. "That didn't really hold any water."
Moure-Eraso said the board's final report is an example how the board "opens windows for communities," but that it will be up to local leaders and citizens to decide if more changes are needed at the Institute plant.
"Communities decide what is acceptable and what they can tolerate and what they can live with," he said.
For example, Moure-Eraso said, federal chemical safety laws give Kanawha County broad authority to do its own safety reviews of local facilities like Bayer, rather than just focusing on emergency response efforts. Local citizens can also have a greater say through their own groups, rather than with neighborhood groups in which chemical companies name the membership, a favored tactic of industry, he said.
"The problem with community organizations in many places is that they are dominated by the people they are supposed to be evaluating," Moure-Eraso said.
"Society is galvanized when disasters happen," he said. "It's a chance to point out things that are wrong and see that it doesn't happen again.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.