‘And then there was one’: Kulinowski about to be sole member of Chemical Safety Board

Photo: CSB

Washington — Chemical Safety Board interim Executive Authority Kristen Kulinowski said she will “do everything in my power to maintain as many of the functions of the CSB as are permissible by law” as the agency comes closer to operating with just one of its five board seats filled – hers.

Kulinowski spoke during a Jan. 29 CSB business meeting – the final one for board member Rick Engler, whose term is set to expire Feb. 5. The term of former sitting board member Manuel Ehrlich concluded in December, while Kulinowski’s term is slated to end in August.

Before Ehrlich’s departure, CSB had operated with only three seats filled – and without a permanent chairperson – since Vanessa A. Sutherland resigned from the top post in June 2018. During a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the effectiveness of CSB that took place earlier on Jan. 29, committee Chairman Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) reminded attendees that CSB will lose its quorum if the full Senate does not approve the nomination of Katherine Lemos as member and chairperson of the board by next week.

The committee approved Lemos’ nomination in September, but a full Senate vote has not taken place. During the CSB meeting, Kulinowski said the timeline for bringing new members on board is “completely outside of our control” and recommended further queries on the matter be directed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Kulinowski lauded the committee for its consideration of the agency’s future. Committee hearing witnesses who testified to the need for a fully operational CSB included American Chemistry Council President and CEO Chris Jahn; Center for Chemical Process Safety Executive Director and CEO Shakeel Kadri; and United Steelworkers Assistant Director of Health, Safety and Environment Steve Sallman.

“I thank the committee for its attention to our agency and for the very positive remarks offered by both committee members and the witnesses testifying about the importance of our agency and the need for us to return to full strength at the board level,” Kulinowski said during the CSB meeting.

A consistent target for elimination under the Trump administration, CSB was started in 1998 and is operating with a budget of $12 million during fiscal year 2020. Engler said during the meeting that the agency’s financial team is preparing to submit its FY 2021 budget request to Congress by early February.

“We are grateful to the Congress for continuing to fund the agency’s safety mission,” Engler said.

An Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General report issued in May stated that CSB vacancies and expiring member terms were among challenges “that, if not addressed, may impede [CSB’s] ability to efficiently and effectively achieve its mission or meet its goals.”

After Engler delivered remarks thanking CSB members and supporters for their diligence and support through the years, Kulinowski closed the meeting by expressing optimism in the agency’s ability to return to form.

Until that time, however, she will serve on the board alone.

“And then there was one,” Kulinowski said.

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