Marcin Balcerzak/

Chemical Safety Board Now Functioning with Four Members

New Chairwoman Vanessa Sutherland arrived Monday to tackle agency troubles.

After two months of operating with only two of its five-member complement, the disputatious Chemical Safety Board on Monday welcomed a new leader and a new board member.

Chairwoman Vanessa Sutherland, whose nomination by President Obama the Senate confirmed on Aug. 6, said in a statement Monday, “I look forward to a highly productive and collaborative experience with my fellow board members.” Sutherland previously served as chief counsel for the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. 

“I believe that safety is a shared responsibility. That responsibility extends far beyond the corridors of K Street as well as a facility’s fence lines,” added Sutherland, who also has experience at the Energy Department’s inspector general’s office. “Safety extends into the homes and communities that are most affected by the devastating accidents that that CSB is responsible for investigating – accidents that forever affect families and communities.” 

The new chairwoman was joined by Senate-confirmed board member Kristen Kulinowski, a chemist who previously was a research staff member at the federally funded Institute for Defense Analyses Science and Technology Policy Institute. Kulinowski also served on the faculty at Rice University and was executive director for the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology and director of the International Council on Nanotechnology.

They join board members Manny Ehrlich and Rick Engler, the latter having served as interim chair this summer. “I look forward to working closely with them on the important work of the CSB to help prevent chemical incidents,” Engler said after Sutherland and Kulinowski were confirmed. “Both bring broad expertise and experience to their new positions.”

The Chemical Safety Board, whose embattled previous chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso was forced to resign in April, continues to grapple with the aftermath of last year’s controversies over congressional charges of a “toxic work environment” and inappropriate use of private email accounts for official business. Two key staffers, General Counsel Richard Loeb and Managing Director Daniel Horowitz, remain on administrative leave pending investigations.

The board still lacks one member, following the June 24 departure of Mark Griffon at the end of his five-year term.

Jeff Ruch, the executive director of the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and a frequent critic of the CSB, told Government Executive, “We wish the two members good luck and hope they can return the focus of the board back to chemical safety and away from petty 'gotcha' exercises.”

(Image via Marcin Balcerzak/