Sustained Outrage

Obama picks former industry official from CSB post

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I haven’t seen much mention of it in the media so far, but there was a move by President Obama on Friday to fill the last open spot on the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

Here’s the press release from the White House:

rachel_meidl_key_official_picToday, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:

— Rachel A. Meidl – Member, Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

Ms. Meidl is currently listed as the deputy associate administrator for policy and programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA. That connection is interesting, of course, because the CSB’s current chair, also an Obama pick, Vanessa Allen Sutherland, was previously at PHMSA as its chief counsel. Well, there’s also the fact that PHMSA is not necessarily known for doing such a great job, and the Obama administration isn’t thought of by agency critics as having really improved the situation there.

It’s also worth noting that Ms. Meidl was fairly recently director of regulatory and technical affairs at the American Chemistry Council, an industry lobby group and in that role was critical of some of the CSB’s biggest initiatives, such as the push for “inherently safer technologies” that would prevent chemical plant disasters (see here, here and here).

Of course, given the findings and recommendations in the much-criticized CSB report on Freedom Industries, it’s not really clear whether making the chemical industry inherently safer is a priority at the CSB anymore