I want to begin by welcoming Vanessa Sutherland to the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) today as we consider her nomination to be the next Chairman of the Chemical Safety Board (CSB).
The confirmation of qualified individuals to lead federal agencies is an important responsibility of the Senate. It is critical that we move forward with the nominations under the jurisdiction of this Committee so that our federal agencies can fulfill their mission to serve the American people. In addition to Ms. Sutherland, the President has nominated Kristen Kulinowski to be a Member of the CSB and, since we have all of her paperwork, we should move forward with her nomination as soon as possible.
Ms. Sutherland currently serves as Chief Counsel to the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). This is a position she has held since October 2011.
The CSB plays a critical role in protecting our communities from chemical hazards by investigating industrial chemical accidents involving fatalities, serious injuries, or substantial property damages and making recommendations to industry and federal and state agencies so that similar events might be prevented.
Two years ago this month, a massive explosion at a fertilizer distribution plant in West, Texas, killed 15 people, injured hundreds more, and damaged or destroyed homes, businesses, and three unoccupied schools. After the disaster in West, Texas, President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing a Working Group to conduct a comprehensive review of our chemical safety and security programs and develop recommendations for improving these programs. However, I am very concerned that despite the clear risks posed by our nation's chemical facilities, very little progress has been made to improve safety.
If confirmed as Chairman of the CSB, Ms. Sutherland will face a number of challenges, including tackling the backlog of open investigations, the recent resignation of the Chairman, and addressing management and governance issues between the Chairman and other members of the Board.
The number one priority of the CSB is safety. Ms. Sutherland, I need you to take these challenges on and be committed to the crucial safety mission of the agency. It is a huge responsibility but also a key opportunity.
I look forward to hearing from you about your vision for the CSB and how you intend to move the agency forward.