Vanessa Allen Sutherland speaks at an American Chemical Society event in 2016.

Vanessa Allen Sutherland speaks at an American Chemical Society event in 2016. CSB

Chemical Safety Board Chair Resigns Unexpectedly

Vanessa Allen Sutherland arrived in 2015 seeking to bolster a divided, demoralized agency.

Three years into her five-year term as chairwoman of the Chemical Safety Board, Vanessa Allen Sutherland on Tuesday announced she will step down from the independent investigatory agency at the end of June.

“I am saddened to leave the wonderful mission and incredible work of the CSB,” Sutherland said in a statement on the agency’s website. “This mission is unique and critically important because we are the only agency conducting independent, comprehensive root-cause chemical incident investigations.

“As we continue to recognize the agency’s 20th anniversary of operations, we still have much work to do to achieve our vision of a nation safe from chemical disasters,” she added. “And I️ am absolutely certain that this team, and future hires, will both excel in execution and outshine our prior efforts. I’m fortunate to have been a part of the work.”

Southerland was named by President Obama in March 2015 having served as chief counsel for the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Her temporary successor, her new statement said, will be selected by the remaining three board members, ”unless and until the White House nominates and the Senate confirms a new chairperson.”

When Sutherland arrived after her August 2015 confirmation, she immediately began a listening tour of the troubled agency she had inherited. Her predecessor was subject to congressional and inspector general investigations for alleged misuse of email and other management issues, and critics took issue with quorum rules interpretations by board member Rich Engler.

Many employees in the investigative areas have departed, and managing director Daniel Horowitz remains on administrative leave after nearly three years following an investigation of alleged misconduct.

President Trump had sought to eliminate the board altogether, though Congress did not go along, and some of the risk management rules that the CSB had pushed for have been held back under Trump by the Environmental Protection Agency. Most recently, the CSB workforce voted to unionize.

This story has been updated.